Fate of our NRL teams in one woman’s hands
THE fate of Queensland's NRL teams rests in the hands of Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk as the game banks on the Sunshine State's border block being relaxed for next month's season relaunch.
The NRL yesterday confirmed it will definitely restart the 2020 premiership season on May 28 following a meeting of the competition's "Project Apollo" committee.
Teams will return to training on May 4, giving them three weeks to prepare for Round 3 of the new-look NRL season.
But Queensland's three clubs are facing an uncertain lead-up due to the state's strict border controls.
As it stands, NRL teams will not be allowed to enter Queensland, meaning all games will have to be played in NSW.
That would require the Brisbane Broncos, North Queensland Cowboys and Gold Coast Titans to relocate south of the Tweed indefinitely, impacting their preparations and robbing them of the opportunity to play home games.
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The NRL is hopeful Palaszczuk will ease border restrictions by late May, or grant the game a travel exemption, on the back of Queensland's encouraging coronavirus infection statistics.
The state has recorded zero new cases on two of the past three days, proving guidelines have been successful in stemming the spread of COVID-19.
Ideally, the NRL needs to finalise a draw with broadcasters for the remainder of the season at least a fortnight before it recommences to schedule games and book venues.
Project Apollo leader Wayne Pearce said Queensland teams would need to relocate as it stands, but the situation was changing quickly.
"As of today, those teams would have to come into camp in NSW, but the landscape is changing pretty quickly," he said.
"The government authorities that we are speaking to are very supportive of what we're looking to do because we are actually looking to hold ourselves to very high standards, and that will certainly exceed what community expectations are."
The NRL will fly teams on private jets and avoid staying in hotels to reduce the chance of a player contracting the virus.
The NRL is hoping Queensland will be open for business by the time the season restarts to ensure the integrity of the competition.
While crowds will not be allowed to attend games due to social distancing guidelines, the NRL wants Queensland teams to be playing at their home venues.
The Broncos are eyeing off a base in northern NSW as opposed to Sydney if they are forced to leave Queensland.
A spokesman for Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last night said Ms Palaszczuk wouldn't comment on lifting border restrictions until she had seen the NRL's plan, but she has previously said that she would only act on medical advice in easing restrictions.
No decision has been made on when border restrictions will ease, which will depend heavily on how many coronavirus cases emerge over the next month.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk last night said she would not comment on the lifting of border restrictions until she had seen the NRL's plan.
She has previously stated that she would only act on medical advice in relation to the lifting of border restrictions.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys said the NRL had written to the Premier and had plans in place to safely enter and exit Queensland.
"We appreciate the Premier's got an open mind and has opened the door, we will take advantage of that and we have written to her," he said.
"It's just a matter of time before we meet with her and satisfy her with the biosecurity measures we've put in place, which are probably the most comprehensive I've ever seen and will be the benchmark for all sports.
"The infection rates in NSW and Victoria are less than 1 per cent. For the first time, more people are recovering than becoming infected.
"We've always said the data will be imperative. When we made the decision about the 28th of May we were doing it on the condition the infection rate would continue to come down and stabilise and that's exactly what it's done.
"We're more confident than ever now.
"We're of the view the border restrictions will be removed soon."
Originally published as Fate of our NRL teams in one woman's hands