National cabinet will on Friday consider how and when sport at all levels can resume, with the NFL’s bid for a restart of its season proving a catalyst for all competitions.
The NRL had prepared a detailed plan for the restart of its season, having pushed harder than most because of the financial pain being suffered by its clubs.
National cabinet will consider the NRL’s plan to resume on May 28 and also other guidelines that could allow sport to resume, although without crowds.
The AFL has its own plan for its season to start mid-year with clubs based in regional hubs, with more details expected to be announced on May 11.
It is thought the AFL is looking at three hubs, with six clubs competing in each to allow the season to resume.
AAP reports the NRL is confident it will have positive answers on how the restart would involve Queensland clubs and the New Zealand Warriors by the start of the weekend.
Health officials will decide how to advise states on whether the game can return and in what form.
The NRL has provided health officials with draft biosecurity measures, which it claims to be the benchmark for all sports.
They include the power to move players if they are in a risk zone and banning public exercise outside of club headquarters.
If approved, it should open the door for the states.
The Queensland government will decide whether to let players train and play in the state and cross the border to NSW.
That could in theory save North Queensland, Brisbane and the Gold Coast from having to enter camp in NSW, saving the players from leaving their family and the game a significant cost.
The NRL met with Queensland health officials this week, and remains positive about the outcome.
The same challenge also awaits Melbourne, although the lack of border restrictions in Victoria will make life slightly easier regardless.
Crucially, it is also set to determine the Warriors’ fate.
The NRL remains hopeful the New Zealand-based club will be given an exemption to travel to Australia and take up camp in Tamworth, training while in quarantine.
That would again ensure all NRL clubs are able to return to practice next week, paving the way for the planned restart.
“The meeting should give more clarity and direction for the Queensland-based clubs and New Zealand,” players’ union chief Clint Newton said.
“What we’ve always said is the work that has gone into the consultation process and the efforts that Peter (V’landys) and the NRL executive team and everyone has done to work with governments to provide clarity for everyone is first class.
“What we would hope is that support continues and players are committing to work through that process and they are told the protocols that are looking to be enforced next week.”
There were however concerns from some officials this week that the social-isolation breaches of high-profile players could affect the game.
Sports Minister Richard Colbeck claimed that Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr and Nathan Cleary had put the game’s return at risk.
Mitchell and Addo-Carr were fined $1000 by NSW Police, while Cleary was let off with a warning but hit with a fine by the game.
COVID-19 numbers have dropped significantly since the game was put on hiatus, with active cases at 946 in Australia on Thursday compared to 1762 on March 23.
The AFL Players’ Association plans to address players on Friday to get a more detailed understanding of their concerns of any season restart, with a split in their ranks as well as among AFL administrators on how the competition should manage its reboot.
AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield says those players with children are reluctant to commit to the worst-case scenario, which will see teams isolated for a total of 20 weeks.
Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan was vocal on Thursday, saying players need to “suck it up” and do what’s right for the game.
Fagan invoked the plight of former Melbourne coach Neale Daniher as he presented the case for the hub plan.
Fagan says a recent text from Daniher, who is fighting a high-profile battle with motor neurone disease, helped him approach the AFL’s plan to restart the season with renewed perspective.
‘‘It made me think ‘How would Neale handle this?’’’Fagan told SEN on Thursday.
“When you think about (his battle) and then you think about what we’re faced with … it’s relatively minor, it’s short term.
“We’re not going to jail. We’re not going to die. We’re not going to war. It will end. We will get back to normal, (but) it’s just going to take a bit of sacrifice for a while.
“I figure right now what we need to do is actually suck it up and do what’s best for the game in the hope that we can return to where we’ve been at over the past 50 years.
“That’s my attitude towards it, and the majority of our players.”