National Rugby League venues announced



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Australia National Rugby League Image: NRL/Bankwest Stadium

The six venues that will be utilized during the first phase of the National Rugby League’s resumption from May 28 have been announced by the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC).

Australian Rugby League (ARL) Commissioner Wayne Pearce formally announced recently that the National Rugby League (NRL) will restart on May 28.

The National Rugby League will be one of the first major rugby competitions to restart its campaign.

The National Rugby League (NRL) is Australia’s top-level domestic men’s rugby league club competition.

The NRL announced a revised 16-round schedule for the competition, which has been suspended since March 23 due to coronavirus restrictions imposed after just two rounds of the season were played. There will be no paying spectators at the matches. The NRL grand final is scheduled for October 25 this year.

Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, Campbelltown Stadium in Leumeah, New South Wales, Central Coast Stadium, Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, QCB Stadium in Townsville and AAMI Park in Melbourne – have each been picked up on a range of factors, including how well equipped are they to meet the National Rugby League’s biosecurity protocols.

The factors which the Australian Rugby League Commission closely scrutinized were geographical location, rectangular rather than oval stadia and commercial aspects. All matches will be consolidated into the six venues and will be played sans fans.

The six venues will be used for at least rounds three to nine of the National Rugby League before a review is conducted.

Pearce stated, “What we have achieved is a lot more clarity around the medical process and what those protocols are. We clarified that May 28 is a definite.”

“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. The key stakeholders in regards to the competition structure are the broadcasters, so we’re liaising with the broadcasters at the moment. We hope that we’ll be in a position, sooner rather than later, to announce what the competition structure looks like and what the end date of the competition will be,” Pearce added.

Pearce also confirmed that all points earned from the first two rounds of the National Rugby League will carry over to the extended competition.

Moreover, according to the Australian Rugby League Chairman Peter V’landys, the National Rugby League will issue strict training and game day protocols in order to protect the health and safety of everybody involved in the fixtures.

V’landys emphasized, “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. We made it clear earlier this month that our target date is May 28 and we are on target to resume then. There’s no reason not to resume, the infection rate in New South Wales has been less than 1 percent in the last few days, coming down from 22.27 percent when we suspended the season on March 23.”

Strict sanctions will be put in place if clubs do not adhere to the protocols as, according to V’landys, “one reckless act” would compromise the entire competition.

The season resumes May 28 with the Brisbane Broncos hosting Parramatta to start the third round, which also features a match between old rivals the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney Rabbitohs. The Roosters are seeking a third NRL premiership in a row.

The Eels, Bulldogs, Rabbitohs, Sharks and Roosters will play home games at Bankwest Stadium, while the Dragons, Tigers, Panthers and Raiders will call Campbelltown Stadium home.

The Central Coast Stadium will serve as the home of the Knights, Warriors and Sea Eagles, with the Broncos and Titans to play home games at Suncorp Stadium. The Cowboys and the Storm will play home games at QCB Stadium and AAMI Park, respectively.

Acting NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said, “The competition will begin with a consolidated approach to venues. Each venue requires customized infrastructure to meet our strict biosecurity requirements. We’ve adopted a phased approach for venues should restrictions be eased in the future.”

“We’ve chosen three consolidated venues for clubs in and around Sydney to ensure there are no double headers at venues and in different parts of the region to meet the geographical challenges we face,” he added.

“Everyone has fought so hard to get the game back on the field. There are new fixtures and new venues, but when the players take the field, the desire to win will be that much higher given the sacrifices made to this point,” Abdo further added.

The ‘no-jab, no play’ policy has raised a lot of concern. The policy requires that National Rugby League players get the annual influenza shot to prevent the spread of more illness. A small minority of players have refused, and it is doubtful if they will be allowed to take the field when play resumes.

Strict controls and early border closures have led to very less COVID-19 fatalities and cases in Australia.

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