The Federal Government has dismissed the NRL’s plan to resume its season from May, with Sports Minister Richard Colbeck saying it’s a “bit ambitious” to suggest footy will kick off any time soon.
Speaking on ABC Radio this morning, Colbeck downplayed the scheme, saying the ongoing threat of coronavirus (COVID-19) means it’s mighty unlikely the code will rumble back into operation in a matter of weeks.
Australia is “doing extremely well at the moment” in its fight against the pandemic, Colbeck said.
“But once the health authorities that are giving us advice give us the signal that we can start to relax some of those things, then we start considering that, but not before.”
His statement comes a day after Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Brendan Murphy, said “it’s far too early” for Australia to lift the lockdown restrictions which have temporarily shuttered Australia’s professional sporting leagues.
On top of the everyday restrictions which encourage fans to stay home, the league also has Queensland’s strict border control policies and international travel crackdowns to contend with.
Still, last Thursday, the NRL announced its hopes to carry on with the 2020 season on May 28.
“The situation is changing dramatically and we need to get moving,” said Australian Rugby League Commission Chair Peter V’landys.
“It is in the best interests of our clubs, our players, our stakeholders and importantly our fans that the competition resumes as quickly and as safely as possible.”
That’s not the only optimistic suggestion put forward by Project Apollo, the brains trust tasked with shepherding the league through the public health crisis.
Project Apollo kicked around the idea of quarantining each and every NRL player on an island (!) where they could remain to play out the season, a suggestion which Deputy Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly shot down last week.
“It sounds like a reality show they might continue it on, not just the playing, but what happens for the rest of the week, the mind boggles,” he said.
If I may be so bold, perhaps each player could wear a helmet with a protective face shield to stem the transmission of bodily fluids. Perhaps one player on each team could be permitted to make forward passes, and each play could be ironed to a grid of some kind.
Sorry, stupid idea. Watch this space though, NRL fans.