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NRL reaffirms commitment to play on as AFL suspends competition

The NRL has reaffirmed its commitment on Sunday to continue playing the Telstra Premiership season for the time being.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said it was the ARL Commission's intention to proceed with the competition until there is advice from government to shut down matches.

AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan on Sunday announced their competition would be suspended until at least the end of May due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

He said the AFL would review the decision at the end of April.

Greenberg said they had "given careful consideration to today’s federal and state government decisions to shut down non-essential services, locations and travel".

"We have, and always will, stringently follow all government health advice and medical protocols to protect the health and safety of the community, and our players," he added.

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"At this stage, our intent is to play on and we remain committed to the continuation of the 2020 season as far as government advice allows it.

"Our number one priority is to protect our players, staff and fans and we will continue to do this by adopting the strictest possible medical protocols.

"However, we understand the pace of the crisis is escalating rapidly and we need to remain flexible and conscious of community expectations."

ARL chairman Peter V'landys said on Channel Nine on Sunday night that rugby league would remain focused on keeping its season afloat unless told otherwise by the government or health authorities.

"It is continuing. We said from the outset that we would listen to the government authorities and the health authorities and our experts. Nothing has changed from our end. The government authorities haven't told us to shut down or not play," he said.

"The health of our players is naturally paramount so we will be taking no risks but at this point the health authorities haven't indicated they don't want us to play and we are in their hands. We are in the government's hands and the hands of our experts.

"The AFL have got different circumstances, they have got teams throughout Australia ... we have only got them in three states so we can continue on without too much drama.

"We have self-isolated our players, we are minimising all the risks and they are probably safer playing than not playing.

"We firmly believe that we have the right protocols to keep everyone healthy and while that is happening and the players are abiding by that there is no reason we couldn't play."

The ARL Commission will await the findings of a federal government national cabinet meeting on Sunday night before making any further decisions on the NRL's status.

The government authorities haven't told us to shut down or not play.

Peter V'landys

Former Australian captain Brad Fittler said the AFL's situation seemed more complicated than the NRL's predicament because the 18-player code was played in more states.

"There is a difference betweeen the two sports in that we do a lot less travel than the AFL. If there is some sort of way the NRL can go forward that would be on the back of that," he said on Nine.

"They [the AFL] have got two teams in Western Australia, two teams in South Australia, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne so it takes a lot of travel. If there is an advantage to the NRL it would be the fact that it is predominantly played in two states.

"I know that there is a huge meeting that is going to go on tonight and I am gathering what happens there is going to be the decider about whether the NRL goes forward and plays any games."

Former international Braith Anasta backed the NRL's decision to continue into round three and potentially beyond.

"Our leadership has been stoic and brilliant from day one. I respect our leadership and I am comfortable with them making this decision," Anasta said on Fox League.

"There is going to be even more pressure on them and it is just whether they can withstand the pressure and whether they can go on and keep everyone healthy and playing our game. Hopefully we can but it is a big question mark now. It is going to be tough."

Triple premiership-winner Cooper Cronk added: "I think we as a rugby league community we as people get in behind the people of our country and the leaders to set the example and the agenda of what we do.

"If Todd Greenberg and Peter V'landys are getting the executives to meet tonight, whatever they come down with, whatever their recommendation is I am behind them."

Earlier on Sunday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the federal government would work with the NRL and the AFL as the sports tried to continue their competitions during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The Prime Minister announced that Australians should cancel holiday plans but the tighter restrictions on non-essential travel are not likely to affect the NRL's plan to continue the Telstra Premiership.

Round two of the premiership was completed on Sunday, the first round in the competition's history played behind closed doors due to strict measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

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"I would say not. It's not the end of sport," Morrison said in his media conference on Sunday morning.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Sunday afternoon announced it was her intention for the state to shut down all non-essential services with schools set to close on Tuesday.