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NRL announces 'self-isolation program' to minimise player risk

The NRL is set to introduce a "self-isolation program" for players in a bid to ensure safety measures are met during the global coronavirus pandemic.

After the ARL Commission met at Rugby League Central on Thursday, chairman Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg announced players would be briefed on plans to reduce the risk of a player contracting the virus throughout the season.

As part of the new match-day procedures finalised in conjunction with the Rugby League Players Association, there will only be essential interaction between players and the general community.

"The details of the program will be worked out with the clubs and players taking into account the expert advice," V'landys said.

"There's only going to be essential interaction with our players and the general community.

Why Bennett wants games to go on

"Any non-essential contact will be reduced. The detail will be worked out so they are aware of their responsibilities."

V'landys said the NRL would continue to explore every option in the wake of the global issue because "the whole survival of our game is at risk".

However, he reiterated the safety of the game's players and staff remained a high priority.

"The best advice we have received is that we can continue to play and we can continue until another contingency is encountered," V'landys said.

"In order to have the game viable we need to play every game, the finals series and the State of Origin series.

"That is our second objective and all players are on side with that, we need to see the season out."

ARL Commission update

In a 25-minute update from the game's governing body on Thursday, other topics discussed also included:

  • The scheduling around the State of Origin series remains unchanged for now;
  • There is a possibility the Telstra Premiership could run until December if there are forced delays; 
  • The NRL is considering the possibility of shifting players to a warmer climate during winter, when flu season is expected to peak in Australia; 
  • There is an opportunity to sell the game on television to new viewers as one of the few sports still operating worldwide; 
  • There is no accurate time frame on when fans will be able to attend matches;
  • The final representative calendar – including the future of the Kangaroos tour scheduled for October – is still to be decided; 
  • The women's calendar – including the NRLW and Origin clash – remains a "major priority".

V'landys added the code would do "anything and everything" to keep the game viable, including "savage cuts to our costs", but remained adamant on seeking financial support from the Australian Government.

"We're in uncharted waters. We're in the hands of the government. I honestly don't know when we'll have the public [viewing games] again.

"Everyone in our family is united. The players are one of the important elements of our family and we'll do everything we can to protect them."

The players have to understand the responsibility they have.

Peter V'landys

The ARL Commission chairman urged the players to be mindful of their integral responsibility in ensuring the game would continue.

"We have got to trust them doing the right thing," he said. "Because if they don't do the right thing it not any puts their teammate in danger or their family in danger, it puts the whole game in danger so they have to understand the responsibility they have," he said.

"That is why we want to make sure they are part of the process from the beginning so they know exactly what their obligations are."

RLPA general manager Clint Newton said the players' union had never worked together with the NRL better than they had over the past few days.

"We will get through this. The NRL is certainly committed to work through the details of the self-isolation program with us," Newton said.

"These most challenging times can be conquered when we stick together."