Wayne Bennett’s idea is gaining traction.
Wayne Bennett’s idea is gaining traction.

ScoMo’s blunt rejection for the NRL

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has dampened the NRL's hopes of receiving government assistance to cope with the fallout of coronavirus.

ARL Commission Chairman Peter V'landys said yesterday the financial impact of suspending the season would be "catastrophic" and admitted the game simply can't afford to go on hiatus.

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The Daily Telegraph's Paul Kent suggested the league could survive for perhaps three months before going broke if matches are cancelled.

V'landys told reporters the NRL will seek funding from the government to keep the league in tact but speaking to broadcaster Alan Jones on radio this morning, Mr Morrison dented that ambition.

"Obviously the NRL is not high on the list at the moment," the Prime Minister said.

Neither V'landys nor NRL CEO Todd Greenberg would put an official number on how much the code would seek from the government, declining to confirm when a figure of $200 million was raised in yesterday's press conference.

Mr Morrison is a Cronulla fan and last week voiced his intention to attend the Sharks' game against Souths despite the threat of coronavirus looming large, before backtracking and opting not to go as medical advice warned against large gatherings.

RADICAL PROPOSAL GAINS TRACTION

Paul McGregor has thrown his support behind the Magic Round style concept that could keep the NRL season alive in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

The governing body is understood to be considering isolating all 16 teams in one city - believed to be in northern Australia - in order to avoid the game's extinction.

It comes as the deadly virus has turned the current campaign into a logistical nightmare, with the Warriors already displaced in Gold Coast this week. The idea, which got the green light from the St George Illawarra coach, to shift the league to one city was the brainchild of former Dragons mentor Wayne Bennett.

"I actually thought there was a fair bit of smarts about it," McGregor said. "Coming up with some really strong ideas, how we can do it better, is a great initiative by Wayne.

"There's a lot behind that, yeah."

On the weekend, Bennett spruiked the idea of keeping all 16 teams in the one place after his Souths outfit beat the Sharks.

"The ideal for those contingencies is to quarantine us all," Bennett said. "Send us away as 16 teams and do the best we can to make sure no one tests positive.

"Test us before we leave, go somewhere north where the climate is hotter. Because the odds are someone is going to get it (in their current set-up).

"We have to maybe be brave enough to do something other codes haven't done, but not at the risk of people's health.

"I think there is an opportunity to do that if we have to go to Plan B."

McGregor's comments come after the under-pressure coach was unable to deliver Dragons fans victory in their season-opener against the Wests Tigers, going down by 10 points in Wollongong.

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Paul McGregor is on the same page as Wayne Bennett.
Paul McGregor is on the same page as Wayne Bennett.

EXTREME MEASURES TAKEN TO FIGHT VIRUS SPREAD

Fans on the hill at Lottoland yesterday who saw Melbourne beat Manly were treated to an unusual sight on the sidelines as the Sea Eagles took no chances in helping to fight against the spread of coronavirus any way they could.

While Round 1 went ahead as normal, what wasn't stock standard was the way balls that went out of play were meticulously washed before being handed back to the players.

A Sea Eagles staffer wearing gloves manned a couple of eskies of soapy water and diligently washed and dried Steedens brought to him by ball boys, who were also wearing gloves.

These are strange times indeed.

DCE PUTS FAITH IN FOOTY BOSSES

Manly captain and players' union director Daly Cherry-Evans says he's willing to put his trust in the NRL and their decision to press on through the coronavirus pandemic.

The NRL will continue to monitor the coronavirus outbreak on Monday, having engaged experts in bioscience and pandemics for advice on how and if they can play on.

At this stage all games will go ahead as planned for round two, with the Warriors to host Canberra on the Gold Coast given they can't return to New Zealand without a 14-day isolation period.

The game's biggest name in Cameron Smith - who is also general president of the Rugby League Players' Association - on Sunday called for the competition to be suspended for up to two weeks.

RLPA chief executive Ian Prendergast also told AAP on Sunday that some players were anxious about the situation, particularly those who had to travel. But Cherry-Evans said he personally was willing to entrust the NRL with any decision.

"I definitely believe that we should respect the whole situation and I feel as though the NRL has done that by getting the right measures in place with their research," Cherry-Evans said.

"At the end of the day we are employees. We need to respect the people that have employed us to not put us in a dangerous position.

"If a corporation or a business believes their people shouldn't come to work then they are calling that.

"The people we are playing for believe we can keep playing and not be put in a dangerous position, so I have to respect that and I do respect that."

The Kangaroos halfback also said it was impossible for players to avoid thinking about the situation, even as they tried to keep their mind on football. Realistically, the NRL's hopes of keeping the season going will depend largely on the Warriors.

The Australian government's 14-day isolation policy on Sunday means they will remain without their families while in Australia.

The club will make another decision next week if they want to stay on for round three - when they are meant to meet Manly at Lottoland - or return home and miss games. Early reports suggest the Warriors will not stay in Australia beyond this week.

Smith and Cherry-Evans both agreed they'd have no grievance with the Warriors making the call to go home, with the RLPA stressing the players' family and faith should come first.

"They are already sacrificing time away from home and from their families by staying in Australia for another week," Smith said.

"At no stage for me personally - and I feel like I speak on behalf of all the other players too - I wouldn't question them about going home and wanting to be with their families at this time.

"I think that's when the administration have to ask the question, when you're a team down how can the competition go on?"

Daly Cherry-Evans has full faith in the NRL hierarchy.
Daly Cherry-Evans has full faith in the NRL hierarchy.