First domino falls in NRL legends’ call

The NRL’s ambitious plans to get back on the field may have cleared a first hurdle with the Gold Coast Titans heeding the call and admitting the team was ready to relocate to Sydney to get the game back on the park.

While ten of the 16 teams in the NRL are based in NSW and could travel home after games, the trouble appears to be whether teams from interstate and the New Zealand Warriors can relocate to Sydney or gain exemptions from state governments to travel in and out of their home states.

Since it has been announced, the Queensland and ACT governments have appeared to stand in the way of the back and forth plan, with a relocation firming.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the three Queensland teams weren’t exempt from the quarantine laws and wouldn’t be able to travel back and forth.

The NRL had hoped interstate teams would be able to travel for games and training via chartered planes.

“They would not meet the criteria (to cross the border) and secondly we need to make sure we have clear health advice,” Palaszczuk said, adding it will be a “long way before lifting restrictions” in Queensland.

“And I say to all the sporting organisations: let’s just take a break. Let’s get this ‘flattening the curve’ under control.

“And then we can talk to the health officers about getting advice. Let’s not rush this. Let’s take it slowly.”

While she admitted she’d like to see State of Origin this season, the public health implications were more important.

Broncos CEO Paul White said last week his side wanted to train in Queensland and travel.

Similarly, ACT leader Andrew Barr said the Raiders wouldn’t be able to train in Canberra and travel to Sydney.

Federal sports minister Richard Colbeck also said it was “premature” for the NRL to be planning to return.

“I think it’s a bit ambitious, to be frank,” Colbeck told ABC radio on Monday. “If you consider the advice that we are still getting from people like Brendan Murphy … they’re the people who I think should be providing advice on these things.

“I think we need to be really cautious about the circumstances we are in.”

The Victorian government are yet to clarify if the Storm could train in Melbourne but play in NSW.

NRL have a massive week ahead of them.Source:Getty Images

It comes as Maroons great Gorden Tallis called on Queensland’s NRL players to do anything they need to do to get back on the field.

“Mate, I’m prepared to drive down to come and sit on the couch (to be on Fox League Live),” Tallis said.

“The players, they’ve got to do whatever they’ve got to do to get paid, to make sure the competition goes ahead. Simple as that.”

While the warnings have been loud and frequent from politicians, Daily Telegraph journalist Paul Kent said the pressure wouldn’t mean much.

Speaking on Fox League Live, he said the calls weren’t a blow to the return.

“If you read through the full comments from Colbeck for instance, he says it’s ambitious but he says he wants footy back,” he said. “He’s a typical politician where he plays both sides of the fence. I just dismiss what the politicians are saying in many respects at the moment because they’re out there trying to please everybody.

“I think what’s relevant is what Peter V’landys has said about this today is that this is another seven weeks away and Colbeck said it’s ambitious. V’landys said of course it’s ambitious. But the other part of it is if it gets to May 28 and the NRL were unprepared for a competition then we’d be into them for not being prepared. V’landys has kept his flexible plan going and if some unforeseen spike or event happens in between then, then they adjust on the run.”

But the Gold Coast Titans are the first team to confirm it would be willing to relocate to NSW to help the competition get back underway.

The Titans are the first team to commit to a Sydney move.Source:AAP

CEO Steve Mitchell said the Titans were prepared to make sacrifices, including setting up camp in Sydney.

“We want to get the competition, for the greater good for the code, up and going again, not at the detriment of health and their community’s greater general wellbeing, that’s first and fundamentally paramount,” Mitchell told ABC Radio. “But we have to make sacrifices in order to get the competition going.

“If that means we need to go through some adversity and some different obstacles that we need to work through so be it.

“We can’t change the circumstance as it currently stands, so if we need to work through it and make some sacrifices to make it work, so be it.”

The New Zealand Warriors are seemingly preparing to make camp in Sydney but have not yet officially announced the move, with questions being sent to the NRL regarding the move.

While there has been a debate raging over the weekend over whether the first two rounds should be counted or not, the winless Titans are eager to allow the results to stand this season.

Sydney Roosters supremo Nick Politis raised eyebrows when he reignited the debate over whether points should be scrapped when the competition restarts after the coronavirus shutdown.

Politis argued that all results should be wiped ahead of the planned May 28 resumption to ensure the “integrity” of the game, saying it had nothing to do with the two-time defending premiers’ 0-2 season start.

Politis’ plan may have been more around getting as many games on the park as possible.Source:Getty Images

Fellow winless outfits the Warriors and Cronulla have echoed Politis’ controversial call but the reigning wooden spooners said the season should continue from where it was up to.

“The results should stand,” Titans executive chairman Dennis Watt told AAP. “All teams worked hard for those results and they should be very much part of the 2020 season.”

Politis has copped plenty of criticism for his renewed call to start the season again, with undefeated Melbourne’s coach Craig Bellamy saying the Roosters chief was “just trying to look after his own club”.

In Sydney, while there has been plenty of back and forth between the NRL and the NSW government, including the public spat with NSW health minister Brad Hazzard, NSW deputy premier John Barilaro is behind the NRL’s push to get on the field.

“The reality is that the NRL chose to close itself down at the height of the pandemic, it made that decision for the welfare and wellbeing of its own staff, players and clubs. But there is no public order which stops rugby league from taking place,” Barilaro said.

“It’s no different to racing. So while there may have been some confusion, I can tell you that in the conversation I’ve had with the Premier and the Treasurer, we’ve all spoken about the NRL (returning) and said ‘yes, absolutely’.”

While NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller reconfirmed the NRL could start again if it can pass health guidelines after a letter from his office was released over the weekend.

The NRL are also set to meet broadcasters on Tuesday to discuss the structure of its season once it does resume as the league aims to temper fires which were sparked with the May 28 recommencement announcement.

— with AAP

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