The NRL have taken the sensational step of postponing Canterbury’s match against the Sydney Roosters until Monday night following a coronavirus scare.
The blow to league fans’ hope for action was the bad news.
The good news is that attendance restrictions are about to see the most significant easing to date.
Canterbury forward Aiden Tolman was notified on Saturday night a teacher at his child’s school had tested positive to the virus.
The Laguna Street Public School in Sydney’s south has been closed until June 25, with a warning there’s a possibility children may have brought the virus home.
Tolman has undergone an urgent coronavirus test, with the NRL expecting results by lunchtime on Sunday.
The NRL were not willing to risk having a postive test returned just hours before kick off, throwing the schedule into chaos, so they postponed the match.
The Bulldogs v Roosters game has now been moved to 7pm on Monday, while Sunday’s St George Illawarra v Cronulla match at Campbelltown has been brought forward to start at 4pm instead of 6pm.
“We’re rapidly testing that player (Tolman) as we speak. We believe the risk is minimal, but we’re not going to take the risk,” ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys told AAP.
“The message is we’re not taking any risk with our players, or the community. Even though the risk is very low, the risk is not worth taking.
“We’ve shifted the match to tomorrow night to 7pm, and taken the St George Illawarra-Cronulla match to 4pm this afternoon.”
At this stage Tolman is the only Canterbury player being tested, given if he returns a negative result there is no risk to any other teammate.
The match is the first to be affected by the virus since the NRL’s resumption last month.
NRL stadiums in NSW will be allowed to operate at 25 per cent capacity from July 1, the NSW government has declared.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Sunday confirmed the state’s sporting venues will be allowed to operate with a quarter of their capacity occupied from July 1.
The announcement comes just days after the federal government ticked off on crowds of up to 10,000 people social distancing in stadiums.
“If there is any outside organised event outside with ticketing and seating, up to 25 per cent capacity of that venue can be utilised for an event,” Berejiklian said.
“It can be a concert, a music event, a sporting event.
“That is for venues with 40,000 capacity and lower.
“A 40,000 capacity can potentially have up to 10,000 people if it is done with strict guidelines in place.”
Social distancing seating is expected to take place, along with a range of other health protocols the NRL will have to adhere to.
Only stadiums with a maximum 40,000 capacity have been allowed to open, meaning ANZ Stadium remains unavailable.
The Sydney Olympic Park site remains unoccupied, with the lease of former tenants South Sydney and Canterbury expiring this month.
Both clubs are in talks about a return to the venue after the state government’s decision to backflip on plans to renovate the stadium this year.
“The health advice was that no matter how well organised an event is, no matter how well it’s ticketed and seated and entry and exit points are considered, it would be extremely difficult to manage an event of more than 10,000 people at this time, which is why that limit was applied,” Berejiklian said.
Queensland chief medical officer Jeanette Young is confident the state government will allow fans back into their venues.
Suncorp Stadium has a capacity of 52,500.
“I don’t know about next weekend but I think it’ll be reasonably soon that we should be able to see a return to spectators in our stadiums,” Young said.
“That work is happening as we speak.”
It remains unclear whether the Victorian government will open the gates at their sporting venues, including AAMI Park.
Melbourne host defending premiers the Sydney Roosters in the opening match of round eight on July 2.
The NRL is being played in a limited number of grounds until round nine.
That means fans of Canberra, Manly, Gold Coast and the Warriors are likely to have to travel to watch their teams play “home” games that week.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has identified August 1 as his next goal to remove any limitation on crowd numbers.
The stadiums’ new limits
- Lottoland: 4500
- Campbelltown Stadium: 5000
- Leichhardt Oval: 5000
- Netstrata Jubilee Oval: 5000
- WIN Stadium: 5000
- Panthers Stadium: 5500
- Cbus Super Stadium: 6500
- GIO Stadium: 6500
- Townsville Stadium: 6500
- AAMI Park 7500
- Bankwest Stadium: 7500
- McDonald Jones Stadium: 8000