CEO Andrew Abdo says teams are ready for another COVID bubble
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo says he could be forced to reintroduce “bubble” restrictions on players, as COVID threatens the All Stars clash.
January 14, 2021 - 5:00PM
News Corp Australia Sports Newsroom
The NRL could be forced to thrust players into a COVID bubble within weeks as state border closures threaten the lead-up to the season-opening All Stars game.
NRL chief Andrew Abdo has conceded the league is facing a critical fortnight as it monitors the progress of COVID clusters around the country.
There was positive news on Thursday as Queensland, NSW and Victoria announced zero new cases of community transmission.
However each state has restrictions in place limiting the movement of people.
As it stands, players from Greater Sydney would not be allowed into Queensland for the All Stars game in Townsville on February 20.
If that remains the case, the NRL will be forced to apply for a travel exemption with the Queensland Government, as it did to complete the 2020 premiership season.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo says players and team staff may need to enter a COVID bubble again in 2021. Picture: Getty Images.
For an exemption to be granted, the NRL would need to prove players have a minimal-to-zero risk of bringing COVID into Queensland.
That would require the introduction of biosecurity measures, essentially thrusting the players back into a “bubble” type scenario where their interaction with the community is limited.
After overcoming significant hurdles to restart the 2020 competition, the NRL was hoping the players would only have to adhere to the same rules as the public this year.
That may not be the case though, with Abdo admitting the league was closely watching the situation two months out from the season kick-off.
“We’re monitoring the situation in all of the states,” he told News Corp .
“We are hopeful we see a low infection rate over the next couple of weeks and borders opening.
“If not, we will be ready for any situation and permutation that arises and will respond accordingly based on the advice of our experts and what we agree with each of the state governments.”
Former Broncos coach Anthony Seibold and club legend Corey Parker were only allowed to speak through a fence last year. Pic Peter Wallis
Players and club staff adhered to strict biosecurity protocols last year to ensure the relaunch of the season following a two-month suspension as the COVID-19 pandemic took off.
The Melbourne Storm were forced to relocate to the Sunshine Coast for five months, eventually winning the premiership.
Queensland-based players that played in Sydney had to quarantine at home following games and all players were restricted from activities like dining out.
All teams travelled interstate on private jets while the New Zealand Warriors relocated to the Central Coast of NSW.
After spending 2020 in a bubble, NRL players were hoping it could be avoided again in 2020. Picture: Alix Sweeney
The protocols, designed by the NRL’s Project Apollo committee and ticked off by the Queensland and NSW governments, helped the league complete a 20-round season, finals and State of Origin series without a positive COVID case.
The players were hoping they could live a relatively normal life this season given Australia’s strong response to containing COVID.
However Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has demonstrated she is extremely strict and any form of community transmission in other states is likely to force the NRL into introducing restrictions.
If the NRL is forced to introduce protocols, they are unlikely to be as stringent as last year’s given infection rates are much lower than when the 2020 season was suspended