The NRL players’ union have revealed they are willing to consider all the game’s stars living in a bubble together to ensure the 2020 season can restart. The NRL have now shifted their attention to getting back on the field, after a pay deal was brokered between them and the Rugby League Players’ Association on Thursday.
Under the terms of the agreement, players will receive their wages for April and May, but will not be paid for the following five months if the competition doesn’t resume due to the coronavirus. But with the financial survival of the clubs and long-term position of the NRL banking on a return, all parties are desperate for the show to somehow go on.
The most feasible current option includes players being taken to a remote location, and shipped or bussed to grounds to play without any contact with the general public. Gladstone in central Queensland has previously been floated as one option, while Tangalooma Island Resort just off Brisbane shapes as another.
Alternatively, spreading the players across different regional locations is seen as another option to mitigate the risk of illness. And RLPA boss Clint Newton, who has a seat on the NRL’s innovative committee, said he and the players were willing to consider all options even if it meant being away from families.
“We’re willing to explore all options for players, provided first and foremost the players are going to be appropriately protected and kept safe, and do what we can to ensure they are not put at any adverse risk,” Newton said.
“If that means that possibly we find ourselves in a situation where we would be playing in various locations then the players have obviously demonstrated in the first few weeks [of the shutdown] that they’re prepared to explore all options.
“It’s just again about how are they going to be impacted, how are they going to be protected, and is this of any greater risk than what they’ve been going through? And then how is the player and their family going to be properly supported through that process?”
Even if the game restarts, players are still unlikely to receive their full pay for the final months of the year due to lost revenue with crowds and the non-fulfilment of the entire 25 rounds for broadcasters.
Players have, however, been promised they will be involved in all discussions on a restart, while support systems for the Warriors would also be strongly considered if it was possible for them to travel.
The innovation committee are due to meet again next Thursday, and NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said the option of the players living in a bubble on an island was still a possibility.
“It’s an option, it’s certainly not off the table,” Greenberg told Wide World of Sports Radio. “One thing we have learned in this period is … don’t say no to anything until you have found out how it would work. It’s certainly an option but there are other options we are considering.”