Coronavirus: Health advisor questions 28 May NRL return date

NRL
The NRL was suspended after just two rounds of the season

Australia's deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly has questioned the ability of the National Rugby League to return by 28 May, given the on-going coronavirus precautions.

The resumption would see games played behind closed doors to help regenerate funds after lockdown.

But Kelly is concerned about the continued threat of Covid-19 spread, and has called for patience.

"I don’t think they [the NRL] are a law unto themselves," Kelly said.

“Some of the players and coaches may think so, but they’re part of society and they have a part – as we have all done – to support not only safety for themselves but for all of us.

“We all have a place in this and if we loosen the social distancing measures at the moment it can have an implication down the track."

Prior to Kelly's comments, health minister Brad Hazzard confirmed there had been no official communication between the NRL and the New South Wales Government, and no clearance had been given for a restart date.

The NRL was one of the last professional sports organisations to close its doors as the pandemic struck, finally halting proceedings on 23 March, after a round played entirely behind closed doors.

Currently there is no word on how the sport will resume in terms of how the season will be structured at this stage.

Australian Rugby League commissioner Wayne Pearce, himself a decorated former player, described the date as "a mark for everyone to work towards" rather than a definite resumption of the campaign.

Kelly continued: “What we know about this virus, if we don’t have these social distancing measures, [is that] one person can lead to 400 other cases within a month.

"We just cannot afford at this stage to be considering that happening.”

Meanwhile, the threat of losing the Australian Kangaroos tour to England at the end of the season has also come to light, as Rugby League Players Association chief Clint Newton said the NRL players could be willing to stretch the season out to November in the best interests of player welfare.

At present, the Australia side are scheduled to play England at Bolton on 31 October, but an extended NRL could scupper that plan if players are not released from club duties.

"Realistically we have to try and play as long as we can," Newton told the NRL website.

"But at the same time you also want to make sure you're providing the players with enough time, and the staff and fans to have a bit of a spell after the season, to rest, recover and recuperate and then get back into training.

"Obviously the later you go into the year that does then pose a greater level of challenge around the recovery times to then reactivate for 2021."

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