Sport Rugby League Warriors to stay in Australia as NRL forges ahead with season
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Warriors to stay in Australia as NRL forges ahead with season

Warriors players leaving the ground after their round one loss to the Knights. Photo: AAP
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The NRL has resolved to continue playing matches despite the coronavirus pandemic, although fans will be locked out and the Warriors will be based in Australia until New Zealand lifts travel/isolation bans.

A meeting of club chiefs on Sunday morning decided to support the Warriors by basing the squad in Kingscliff on the NSW north coast, meaning they can continue to be part of the 2020 season.

The NRL and A-League is being played in front of crowds this weekend, but both competitions will now join the AFL in locking our spectators and continuing their fixtures.

A-League clubs have six rounds to go before finals and NZ’s third-placed Wellington Phoenix is the club that will have hard decisions ahead.

“The club has been making preparations for this eventuality and will make further announcements in due course,” the Phoenix said in a statement.

The AFL is yet to decide how it will proceed, with planning underway to modify and reshape the season to try and avoid the predicted peak of the coronavirus outbreak.

The NRL is moving to reschedule Warriors home games, with AAP reporting the club will likely meet Canberra on the Gold Coast next week, rather than host the match in New Zealand.

Warriors players Peta Hiku and Patrick Herbert have returned home to New Zealand for family reasons.

“In the interim we will continue round two. At this stage we will play round two and assess the situation,” ARL commission chairman Peter V’landys said.

Any decision we make today could change tomorrow. We are going to review all options, including isolating players and suspending the season.

“This situation is fluid and is changing by the hour. We will continue to take experts’ advice … And we will continue to act on that advice.”

“I can’t stress enough our game has never faced a challenge like this,” V’landys said.

“The longer it takes, the more pressure on our financial viability. It could have catastrophic effects on us going forward.”

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg (L) and ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys speak to the media in Sydney. Photo: AAP

The big fear in both AFL and NRL circles is if a player or staff member tests positive – an event that ultimately caused the cancellation of the Australian Grand Prix when a McLaren team member was positively diagnosed with coronavirus.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg conceded that if any player tested positive, it would have massive implications.

Sport around the world is in turmoil as it bears the brunt of government bans on large gatherings.

Cricket Australia has cancelled the final round of the Sheffield Shield season with a decision as to whether the March 27 final will also be postponed.

After the cancellation of the the first three Grands Prix of the formula one season – including the Melbourne event, which had been due to be held on Sunday – the Dutch and Spanish races in May are also expected to be abandoned.

The Tokyo Olympics which start July 24 is also in grave doubt, although Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country is hopeful of hosting the event “without a hitch”.

“We hope to overcome the spread of infections first and foremost and hold the Olympics as planned without a hitch,” Abe said at a press conference reported by Kyodo News.

On Saturday, Italian Serie A club Fiorentina confirmed positive Covid-19 tests for striker Patrick Cutrone, defender German Pezzella and club physio Stefano Dainelli. Serbian striker Dusan Vlahovic also tested positive on Friday.

England’s Football Association, the Premier League, the English Football League, FA Women’s Super League and FA Women’s Championship have all agreed to call a halt to competitions with immediate effect until early April.

All major European football leagues have been suspended while UEFA effectively suspended its Champions League and Europa League competitions indefinitely on Friday.

The Premier League is set to meet on Thursday to discuss next steps.

Major American sports have had their seasons suspended with the NBA and NHL in lockdown while the MLB will delay its 2020 season’s opening day of March 26 by at least two weeks.

The Super Rugby season has been suspended after the decision of the New Zealand government to quarantine people entering the country for 14 days.

World Triathlon announced the suspension of all races and activities until the end of April – shortly after Britain’s Vicky Holland claimed victory in the Mooloolaba World Cup event in Australia.

One thing is clear, the longer the crisis continues, the more damage it will do to the rivers of gold in major sport through crowd attendance and possibly broadcast rights.

An empty SCG for the first ODI match between Australia and New Zealand. Photo: AAP

“The longer it takes, the more pressure on our financial viability. It could have catastrophic effects on us going forward,” said V’landys in Sydney.

“Our money will only last so long and once its extinguished we are in big trouble. An Australia without rugby league is not Australia.

“The government has to assist us in this crisis because it is not of our own doing.

“Rugby league has been a fabric of our society for hundreds of years. It is people’s escape, it is people’s relaxation.

“And we have to do everything we can to continue the tradition of rugby league.”

-with AAP