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Back to Empty Seats: NRL Reintroduces COVID-19 Restrictions

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30 Jun 2021

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In a move that shouldn’t surprise many, the NRL have announced on Monday that all staff and players directly involved in the competition will be subject to Level 4 Biosecurity Protocols – the same restrictions faced midway through last year as the league became one of the first sports in the world to resume during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under these tighter restrictions, staff and players are to remain isolated in their homes unless they are attending training, playing a game, or completing an essential household task. Additionally, they are banned from bringing visitors into their homes.

In a statement to media, NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo admitted the virus is “spreading quickly” but stressed that the readopted measures will ensure the competition will continue, stating that “players, officials and clubs united last year to ensure no risk to the competition or the community and I have every confidence the same will apply as we work through the current challenges.”

The writing has been on the wall for increased NRL biosecurity measures since NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced a lockdown for the Greater Sydney area on Saturday, threatening to derail the premiership season as COVID-19 community infection numbers rise. Sydney’s Bondi cluster saw a growth of 30 cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 110.

The NRL have already announced that games being played in Sydney and the Central Coast between now and July 9, when Sydney’s current lockdown period is scheduled to wrap up, will be played behind closed doors without crowds. For casual stadium staff, this will come as a blow, with a loss in work over the two week period, as well as no guarantee that crowds and jobs will return by the end of the lockdown.

It is also uncertain if this growth in cases will affect preparations for State of Origin, with a large number of NSW-based staff and crew readying for Game III set to take place on July 14 at Sydney’s Stadium Australia. However, in a statement on Twitter, Deputy Premier John Barilaro has indicated that Newcastle could host the event, bringing work for event staff in the Hunter Region.

Photo: Jonny Clow

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