Sport Rugby League Matthew Elliott: Crisis provides NRL a chance to serve the community

Matthew Elliott: Crisis provides NRL a chance to serve the community

Under pressure: Adam Blair of the Warriors is tackled during the round one match against the Knights. Photo: AAP
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With the coronavirus pandemic causing chaos everywhere, the NRL’s New Zealand Warriors are a unique situation sitting in a hotel at Kingscliff, away from their families and fans.

But like the game itself, they now have a chance to find triumph in adversity.

So, presuming games go ahead, do the Warriors have any chance of competing effectively?

Looking at the situation positively, it could be seen to galvanise the group through shared adversity.

The opportunity of uninterrupted training time could be used to work on deficiencies and a new approach to the game.

There are so many historical examples of how adversity has built an indestructible approach to performance.

The negative side of this equation are the worry and distraction that will come with being away from home in a time of anxiety and strife.

Dysfunction within a team could easily spiral downwards.

The Warriors have some extremely difficult decisions to make over the next seven days, but I maintain the group could find some form if they are guided properly.

This issue is one the entire NRL competition is currently having to navigate given the financial realities of locking out fans and possibly postponing parts of the season.

This unprecedented threat has certainly demonstrated the financial vulnerability of the game, with the so-called “war chest” having a two-week capacity to completely fund the game and the players wages.

This could certainly raise questions around the governance of the sport and strategic planning that has been completed for the game’s sustainability.

Those arguments have a while to run, but this crisis does provide an opportunity for the game to show its true colours and ability to connect with the community beyond traditional roles.

This can be done by clubs, teams and players going into communities and providing support and resources to those who need it.

These unprecedented times require unique approaches and innovation that would see club’s using their health expertise to resource the community, players providing physical support for working families with uninfected kids who have to stay home, and star players reaching out to people who are ill.

This investment by the game would certainly help move the community from uncertainly to calm and also be something that would set the game on a higher plane.

Rugby league can and should lead.

Former St George player, Matthew Elliott has coached NRL teams Canberra, Penrith and New Zealand Warriors