NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
NRL talking points: V'landys warns of 'catastrophe', NZ Warriors staying put and Smith's comments
Last Updated: 17/03/20 5:29pm
In her first talking points column of the season, Sky Sports' NRL expert Jenna Brooks looks at the impact coronavirus is having on rugby league in Australia and New Zealand...
The NRL is one of the very few sports that has not been suspended. However if the 2020 season does get postponed then Australia Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V'landys believes the game is facing the 'biggest catastrophe you've ever seen'
The NRL made it through their first round unharmed before the coronavirus played havoc with the competition.
Like most sport organisations were at first, the NRL are desperate to keep their season going and at the point of writing this article, Round 2, which is live on Sky Sports Arena this week, is set to continue behind closed doors.
"I think the players are pretty understanding at the moment," V'landys said. "What the players understand is that we are doing everything we can to protect their livelihood.
"If we don't play, they don't get paid. If we go under, they don't get paid. We are working hard for them to protect them and in turn protect the game."
The competition is advising players to self-isolate as a precaution. Media sessions are being conducted remotely, with training sessions closed off from the public and staff deemed 'non-essential' being advised to work from home.
On the advice the game has received, V'landys does not believe the competition will have to be suspended should a player test positive for the virus.
"We have a clear picture of what we have to do when or if a player gets it," he said.
V'landys revealed the league had only £35-40m in a futures fund.
"Unfortunately, this has been an unforeseen crisis," he said. "No one saw the consequences of this virus and the potential financial impact this has on the game.
"If it's a complete shutdown for the season, it's the biggest catastrophe you've ever seen. But we will do everything in our power to continue the season and minimise the financial impact on the game."
Queensland Rugby League has suspended all its statewide competitions and community rugby league, with the New South Wales Rugby League expected to announce on Wednesday that matches at all level, from U6s through to the NSW Cup, will also be postponed until June.
If the New Zealand Warriors want to remain in the competition, they will be forced to stay in Australia for an indefinite period, after the New Zealand government announced a two week isolation period for all travellers arriving in the country.
The Auckland-based Warriors are due to play Canberra Raiders on Saturday in a home fixture which was shifted to the Gold Coast, close to where the squad have set up a temporary camp.
Owner Mark Robinson told the Sydney Morning Herald that the team are happy to stay, if it means they can play the game.
"Going forward they are happy to play as long as the competition is running," Robinson said. "The boys are pretty happy to stay. We will do everything we have to do to honour our agreement with the NRL.
"I think we just do it. It's like going on a six-week rugby league tour in England."
However the club's CEO Cameron George insists a decision will not be made until after their Round 2 match.
"Our focus is to get through the game and let's all hope that we can press on and the competition remains, and we are still a part of it but it's all about this week."
Peta Hiku and Patrick Herbert have already returned to New Zealand. Hiku's partner is expecting the birth of their third child, while Herbert's partner gave birth to their first child last month.
So the Warriors are missing two key players and, due to the new isolation rules, are unable to access their reserves.
However, Robinson revealed a number of clubs, including Brisbane Broncos, have given them access to their feeder teams.
To suspend or not to suspend?
Australia and Queensland great Cameron Smith has called for the 2020 season to be suspended.
The former Melbourne Storm hooker is the general president of the Rugby League Players' Association and he believes the NRL is risking the health of players and their families.
"This thing is bigger than rugby league," Smith said. "This affects more than just rugby league players…after finishing these matches on weekends, we go to our families.
"There are several players in our squad who are going back to their families who have newborn babies.
"Craig [Bellamy] has an elderly mother. My parents are in their 60s. Craig is in his 60s. But listening to medical advice, he is in the risk bracket."However, reports in Australia suggest Smith's comments have not been well received by the game.