NRL: Wayne Pearce says 28 May resumption has government permission

The National Rugby League (NRL) has been given the go-ahead by the Australian government to resume on 28 May, Australian Rugby League (ARL) commissioner Wayne Pearce has said.

The 2020 season was halted after two rounds of fixtures because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Teams will now be able to return to training from 4 May.

Pearce also confirmed that the table and points would remain the same as prior to the suspension on 23 March.

The Project Apollo working group, set up by the governing body to ensure a safe return for rugby league in Australia, has agreed that all NRL measures will be “more stringent than government restrictions” and those measures “will be reviewed every time federal and state governments review their protocols”.

However, the chief executive of the Rugby League Players Association says further clarity is required before 28 May is “considered a definitive date” to restart the season.

Clint Newton, a former Hull KR player, added: “These fundamental areas include assurances and protections relating to the health and safety of our members.

“The outstanding matters, such as confirmation that players will have access to the appropriate medical facilities and services should they be injured, are paramount before reaching a definitive return date.

“The collaborative process between the NRL, clubs and players remains critical in ensuring we make informed decisions in what is a challenging landscape.”

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys said: “Right from the start we said player, staff and officials’ health and safety would be the priority and we would base the rules on the advice of the experts.

“These will be the toughest possible protocols but they need to be to ensure our playing group and staff stay healthy and the game can continue.”

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Pearce, who has been heading the Project Apollo group, added: “We have permission from the government and we’re allowed to play, providing we adhere to the public health guidelines.

“We intend to exceed what the public health guidelines are.

“What we achieved today (Wednesday) was a lot more clarity around the medical process and what those protocols are.

“Everyone is supportive of what we’re doing. Everyone is unified into getting back on the field.

“We feel like we owe it to not just the players and coaches but the thousands of staff members at various clubs and associated industries that are out on the unemployment lines too.”

Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly had previously questioned the ability of the NRL to return by 28 May, given the ongoing coronavirus precautions.

Meanwhile, Pearce said the format of the competition was still to be finalised and there were still details to be agreed upon regarding the league’s only non-Australian team, the New Zealand Warriors, as to whether they will be able to re-enter at the same time.

“We are working with the government authorities to get them over here and get them through a quarantine period and have them ready with the other teams for the start of the competition,” Pearce added.

“We’re working through all those details, we haven’t finalised that yet.”

The latest updates come two days after Todd Greenberg, resigned as chief executive of the NRL.

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