If a week is a long time in politics, it’s an eternity in rugby league in this age of the coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday morning NRL Commissioner Peter V’landys was still hoping to keep the competition running with each club based in their home regions, but should disaster strike plans were afoot to relocate the entire league to the small Queensland town of Calliope near Gladstone.
Peter V’landys and Todd Greenberg said the decision to shut down the code was inevitable.Source:AAP
THE DECISION TO SHUT IT DOWN
But just hours later catastrophe struck and following advice from the NRL’s pandemic and biosecurity expert the decision was taken to shut the code down indefinitely.
“Our pandemic and biosecurity expert is one of the best in the world,” V’landys said.
“And we were alarmed at how it had changed in 24 hours.
“Yesterday all was good and we could continue to play, and today that took a dramatic turn.”
Asked directly if the NRL season did not return this year would the NRL be around next year, V’landys was blunt: “Rugby league will always survive in some way.
“I can’t guarantee it will be the same way it is at the moment.
“No one can tell us how long this pandemic is going to last.
“In 24 hours it changed dramatically. So in the next 24 hours it could change even further.
“We are ready for the worst so we have to look at dealing with the worst, and that is what we will be doing in the next couple of weeks.”
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay was stood down. Picture: Brett CostelloSource:News Corp Australia
AND THE PAIN BEGINS IN CLUBLAND
Canterbury were the first club to move standing down their entire coaching staff including head coach Dean Pay and club legend Steve Price without pay as the club battles to stay afloat.
Brisbane, the richest club in the NRL, was forced to act, too, making savage cuts to their $22 million payroll in a bid to keep the franchise alive – pain that reached right to the top and saw chief executive Paul White take a pay cut. While the pain hit twice for Intrust Super Cup players losing not only their football income but also their day jobs.
The Raiders, Sharks, Eels and Cowboys were quick to follow other clubs slashing their football operations and standing down support staff including coaches.
PLAYERS WARNED THEY WOULD FEEL THE PAIN, TOO
NRL players who may have believed their contracts would see them ride out the job losses and pay cuts affecting everyone else in the game were the next to have their bubbles burst.
The RLPA entered the fray insisting that players receive full pay while not playing. However, with play suspended the broadcast cash was on hold and the NRL grants were set to dry up.
“If the grant stops then there are no player payments at all,” one CEO said.
“Some clubs are cutting 400 staff from their leagues club and football club because of coronavirus. We’re cutting back everywhere.
“Players might be the last ones to get touched but it’s coming. You can’t just keep paying money you don’t have. It’s not days away but it’s coming. It’s an argument that has to start today.
Burgess on tiered pay-cuts
NRL: Sam Burgess has his say on implementing tiered pay cuts for NRL players.
AND FEEL THE PAIN THEY DID
The very next day Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson laid bare the NRL’s grim financial predicament, revealing that all NRL players have been told they might not be paid beyond their next salary instalment.
And in a jaw-dropping worst case scenario, Hodgson confirmed players might not even get another pay if the competition does not return this year.
Hodgson wanted to stress that the players were united behind the Rugby League Players Association and were not blowing up, just coming to terms with the reality of the situation they are all confronting
“There is a potential we may not get anything,” Hodgson said.
“We only finished playing last week. To say we might not even get paid in two weeks is a weird one. I think we are guaranteed one pay but after that I am not sure.”
ONE OF THE BIGGEST NAMES IN THE GAME WAS PUSH
If there was not enough turmoil in the game, the Rabbitohs were rocked when South Sydney supremo Shane Richardson informed Souths staff on Thursday morning of his decision, resigning as the head of football.
The move left Fox League expert Braith Anatsa, nephew of South Sydney legend George Piggins, questioning whether Richardson received a pay out as part of his resignation package.
Tyson Frizell wants to be a Knight in 2021 but the NRL is standing in his way.Source:AAP
AND ANOTHER JUMPED SHIPS – OR AT LEAST TRIED TO
The uncertainty over NRL contracts didn’t come soon enough to stop Tyson Frizell’s next big move, and it has St George Illawarra reeling as they lose their representative back-rower.
Frizell had been mulling over offers from the Dragons and Newcastle for weeks but on Thursday night The Daily Telegraph reported that the incumbent Kangaroos and NSW star is all but certain to join the Knights from next year despite the ongoing uncertainty in the game.
But the dealing was not done – this despite the sad news that Kenny Rogers passed away during the week – with the NRL stepping in and refusing to register the new $2.1 million contract because of uncertainty over future player payments.
And that’s the week that was, for now. There’s sure to be more news coming and we’ll bring it to you as it breaks.
Originally published asNRL Wrap: The week that was in rugby league
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