The NRL has confirmed players will not have to live and train in a biosecurity bubble as long as Australia’s state borders are open.
As NRL clubs resume training, low coronavirus infection rates have allowed states to open their borders, lessening the biosecurity requirements to pass between.
And should those borders remain open, the NRL will remain bubble-free.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said the league has learned tough lessons in an impacted season and would remain flexible to change should infection rates increase.
However, after a gruelling season of harsh restrictions for NRL players, staff and referees, plans to scrap the bubble will be welcome news.
“At the moment, if you plan for the borders opening the protocols will be in accordance with what the public protocols are,” Abdo said.
“Clearly we want to make sure we protect the community and we want to make sure the players are training in a safe, low risk as possible environment.
“But at the moment what we’re planning for is borders remaining open and infection rates staying as low as they are, which allows the players just to adhere to public protocols.
“If that situation changes, we’ll put forward a set of protocols that is relevant to the risk level at the time.”
It is eight months since the NRL announced in March it would suspend the 2020 season due to the rising risk of coronavirus infection.
And since then, 18 rounds of NRL, plus a finals series and a State of Origin series were all completed under strict biosecurity protocols developed when knowledge about the virus was still developing.
Abdo said should the health risk to players, staff and community change suddenly as they work towards a March 11 start, the NRL will be better placed to make informed decisions.
“We’ve got the benefit of what we learned in 2020 and know what worked and what didn’t work,” he said.
“When we designed the protocols to get back on the field, there were multiple unknowns and we had to work with not just the state governments but our own biosecurity experts.
“We’ve got the benefit of having learnt from that and I think if we’re forced to do it in 2021 it’ll be more sustainable that it was in 2020.”