Coronavirus wrap: NRL to return on May 28

By Ian Parker, PA
·3-min read

The National Rugby League has announced plans to resume play on May 28 with the Grand Final set for October 25.

Following talks with clubs, broadcast partners and other stakeholders, Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chair Peter V’landys said the league would return as a 20-round competition. The original schedule was for 25 rounds prior to the play-offs.

“Today is a landmark day for rugby league in 2020,” V’landys said.

“This is a great outcome for our players, fans, partners and stakeholders and I’m extremely appreciative for the cooperation and support from (Nine chief executive) Hugh Marks and (Foxtel chief executive) Patrick Delany.

“Both have always acted in good-spirit and have demonstrated how partners work together.”

Players are due to return to training on May 4 under strict hygiene regulations, while the New Zealand Warriors will travel to Australia on Sunday before spending 14 days in quarantine in Tamworth.

V’landys added: “It’s safer now to play than it was in round two when we were playing. The daily infection rate in New South Wales was 25.79 per cent when the last game was played.

“It has been now less than one per cent in NSW for the last 18 days and is continuing to drop. There has also been a significant improvement in the recovery rate, being 75 per cent in NSW and 83 per cent in Australia.

“Our players will be safer under our protocols than they would be as regular members of the community.”

But while the league looked for a way out from the current lockdown, it was forced to act after some players breached regulations over the weekend.

Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Nathan Cleary and Tyronne Roberts-Davis all face fines after being handed breach notices for bringing the game into disrepute, but will not miss any playing time with proposed one-match bans suspended for the rest of the season.

Mitchell and Addo-Carr will be fined 50,000 Australian dollars (£26,000) each, and Cleary and Roberts-Davis 10,000 dollars each (£5,200) – 60 per cent of which will be suspended for the rest of the season – after images of them socialising in groups emerged.

The players have five days to respond before final punishments are set.

Addo-Carr and Mitchell – who play for the Melbourne Storm and South Sydney Rabbitohs respectively – were both seen at a large gathering in New South Wales along with the Newcastle Knights’ Roberts-Davis.

Separate images, reportedly taken on Anzac Day, showed Penrith Panthers half-back Cleary on a couch with a group of five women.

V’landys said: “The players have a responsibility to the game and community. It is important that, in these challenging times, we all have to work together to combat Covid-19 and compliance with public health orders is a critical requirement.

“The players have to understand that they are putting the game and the community at risk by their actions. It’s certainly hard to accept such behaviour when the game is doing everything it can to persuade the community that its players are responsible and behave appropriately.”