The NRL is clinging onto hope they will be able to continue their season on Sunday after all three of Saturday’s matches were postponed amid Queensland’s lockdown.
The NRL was dealt its biggest challenge since last year’s shutdown on Saturday morning when a snap three-day lockdown was ordered in the state’s southeast.
All professional sport was ordered off, with 15 of the NRL’s 16 teams currently based in the region.
The NRL, in a three-and-a-half-hour attempt, tried to keep Saturday’s games on before making a final decision to postpone the matches.
They are, however, holding hope they will be able to play matches on Sunday, with the potential of moving teams into regional areas or interstate.
But as of Saturday afternoon, St George Illawarra, South Sydney, Canberra, Newcastle, Melbourne and Penrith were yet to be told when their postponed match will be played.
“The NRL has postponed all of today’s round-20 NRL premiership matches,” the league said in a statement.
“The NRL respects the decision of the Queensland Government to keep the community safe and healthy following local transmission of COVID-19 in southeast Queensland.
“The NRL is continuing discussions with the Queensland Government to possibly play matches tomorrow.”
Rabbitohs players had already taken off for Rockhampton for their clash with the Dragons when the lockdown was ordered, prompting them to fly back to the Gold Coast on arrival.
It came as St George Illawarra were unable to leave their Brisbane hotel as they prepared to fly for the 3pm match, before all other teams were also ordered back into a strict bubble.
The decision to postpone the Knights-Raiders game will have implications, with Newcastle scheduled to play again on Thursday night.
Each team requires a five-day turnaround between games, meaning the Thursday night game against Brisbane will also need to be altered.
It came after Queensland’s chief health officer Jeannette Young confirmed NRL games could not be played in Brisbane or the Gold Coast.
“There will be no football matches,” Young said.
“So, no community sport, no professional sport, nothing for the next three days. Starting as of 4pm today.”
If games do go ahead on Sunday it will also have to be moved, given Cronulla and Manly were scheduled for Redcliffe and Gold Coast were meant to host Canterbury.
Both the Moreton Bay and Gold Coast LGAs fall under the lockdown zone, after six new locally-acquired cases were confirmed on Saturday.
A decision on all games will likely need to be made quick, with the ACT Government saying they will welcome teams to play in Canberra but only if they leave before 4pm Saturday.
Other challenges also remain with players’ families remaining in quarantine on the Gold Coast, potentially creating issues if the competition is shifted elsewhere.
The NRL do have room to move in their schedule if games have to be pushed back or the competition is suspended, with the end-of-year World Cup unlikely to go ahead.
Mid-week games were used by the AFL last year and that could also come into play in the NRL.