Project Apollo bears fruit as NRL lifts off again after coronavirus hiatus

The NRL has had to get special dispensation from government to get the players back on the pitch

Nick Mulvenney
Wednesday 27 May 2020 09:02
Coronavirus: How has sport been affected?

Australia's National Rugby League will bring professional team sport back to the southern hemisphere for the first time since the coronavirus shutdown when the Brisbane Broncos host the Parramatta Eels in Brisbane on Thursday.

Rugby league chief Peter V'landys was met with widespread disbelief when he announced in early April that the NRL would resume on May 28 but his ambition will pay off when a season suspended in late March resumes at Lang Park.

That ambition has been aided in large part by Australia's success in containing COVID-19 due to early travel restrictions, social distancing measures and widespread testing.

Restrictions have been eased but some remain and the NRL, the most popular winter sport on the country's east coast, has had to get special dispensation from government to get the players back on the pitch.

The matches will be played behind closed doors at a few selected stadiums and while the rest of the country is enjoying a bit more freedom, players and staff are still living under strict isolation rules.

The New Zealand-based Warriors squad have made the biggest sacrifices to get the season going again, spending two weeks in quarantine in an interior city before moving on to Gosford, where they will play the St George Dragons on Saturday.

The Warriors will have to play all their matches in Australia until the mooted trans-Tasman Sea "bubble" is put in place to allow travel back-and-forth to New Zealand.

Internal travel restrictions also remain in place and special permission has had to be granted by the Queensland government for sides from New South Wales and Victoria to fly in to play the three teams from the vast northeastern state.

The self-proclaimed "greatest game of all", the 13-man version of the more international sport of rugby union, will resume in round three of the NRL season with round-robin matches running for another 17 weeks until the start of the playoffs.

The grandly named "Project Apollo" committee which plotted the return of the NRL is even hoping to have a limited number of fans in stadiums by the start of July.

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) described that proposal as "absurd" and "dangerous" on Tuesday but given what the NRL has already achieved, it might be premature to rule it out altogether. Reuters

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in