The "wildcard weekend" idea is a possibility of returning to the NRL landscape due to the complexities of trying to finish the season due to the delay caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The ARL Commission has instituted a committee to look into ways the season can condense its calendar into the latter parts of the year and one of the options under consideration is the wildcard weekend format for the finals.
Under the system, the teams that finish in the top six would advance directly to the finals with the seventh-placed side meeting the 10th-ranked outfit and clubs eight and nine also battling it out in elimination matches to determine the final two spots in the top eight.
With the first two rounds of the season already done and dusted before the competition was forced into a hiatus, the NRL is hopeful of at least playing 13 more regular-season matches so that each team plays every opponent once.
The wildcard weekend idea was raised as a potential option last year but was put on the backburner after receiving a mixed response from fans and the clubs.
Parra boss clarify's Arthur's role
Eels chairman Sean McElduff has move to clarify any confusion over Brad Arthur's position after the coach and most of the football department were stood down last week.
McElduff has penned an open letter to Parramatta supporters, reassuring fans that the measures they're taking are designed to ensure the club's long-term viability.
"To avoid any confusion, I wanted to clarify Brad’s situation during this period," he wrote.
"Brad has been stood down along with the vast majority of our football department staff but like others, he will be taking his annual leave entitlement but deferring his long service leave entitlement.
"Like so many in our club [staff and players], Brad is also making a large sacrifice because he has offered to continue to work during his leave period to ensure that our players are well prepared when they return. This approach was discussed and agreed with Brad and is the best way to manage our business during this period."
McElduff said the club was facing challenges on several fronts, "not least the wellbeing of our players and staff".
He was confident the club would be in sound shape to be "hitting the ground running when the competition starts again".
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NRL announces funding package
The NRL is delivering a $40 million rescue package to the 16 Telstra Premiership clubs to help them cope with the financial impact of the global coronavirus pandemic.
After the ARL Commission met on Monday morning, chairman Peter V'landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg held a phone hook-up with the clubs, announcing each team would receive $2.5 million to help get them through this unprecedented period where the competition has been suspended.
Details of the recovery plan include:
- The NRL will pay a total of $40 million in monthly grant payments to the clubs between April and October to cover their ongoing operational costs. This is an increase of $6.4m of funding compared to the 2020 budget;
- The NRL will reduce its operating costs by 53%, including a 95% reduction in staffing levels during the shutdown period and a 25% cut in executive salaries.
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'Most difficult week' in Storm history
Storm CEO Dave Donaghy has posted a message to their fans on the Melbourne website, describing the past seven days as "the most difficult in the club's history".
Donaghy said the club was finding a way to "navigate through this challenging period" brought about by the Telstra Premiership being suspended earlier this week due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Storm’s current chairman, Bart Campbell, incoming chairman Matt Tripp, and Donaghy addressed all staff – administration and football - on Friday afternoon via teleconference during which they announced changes to the operations of the club.
"This past week has been the most difficult in the club’s history," Donaghy said.
"We have spent a considerable amount of time finding a way to preserve as many staff as possible and stripping our operational costs to save our club.
"Regrettably, Storm has had to stand down a third of all staff from our football and administration departments and asked those remaining to take a 50% pay cut, effective immediately.
"Of those remaining on half pay, some will work full-time and others part time to keep the club progressing through this period."
Melbourne's board has directed that positions will be kept open with a view of them returning to work "when normality resumes".
Titans go back to day one
Gold Coast are also trying make the best of a bad situation for Titans fans craving their footy fix. They will be replaying their first game in the NRL on their website on Sunday afternoon.
Broncos close doors until further notice
Brisbane have announced their headquarters closed on Friday and won't reopen until further notice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Broncos issued a statement to say "On the advice of the health authorities and government, the Clive Berghofer Centre and Brisbane Broncos administration will be closed ... The club is awaiting direction from the NRL and Government heads to determine a time when the competition can recommence".
Last time they met: Titans v Broncos - Round 19, 2019
Morris tells Sharks to stay in top shape
Sharks coach John Morris said Bronson Xerri (shoulder) and Josh Dugan (knee) would have been right to go if round three went ahead while he was confident Matt Moylan will be over his nagging hamstring problems when the Telstra Premiership does eventually restart.
Morris told Sharks TV that their team was aiming to maintain their fitness levels despite players having to take equipment from the club's gym so they can work out during self-isolation.
"It's hit everyone pretty hard, not just here at the Sharks," he said.
"I just hope we can all stick together and this passes relatively quickly.
"If we can just maintain their level of fitness it will be a real win for us.
"I've challenged them all to come back with a new skill. They'll all stay connected and look out for each other and hopefully try and stay positive.
"I think we can jump back into it quickly whenever we're given the green light."
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Magic Round won't go ahead
The NRL has cancelled Magic Round in Brisbane due to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
With the health situation continuing to worsen and advice from government health officials and biosecurity experts that the current lockdown measures including travel restrictions to Queensland, and restrictions on mass gatherings are to continue for an extended period, the NRL said it had no option but to cancel Magic Round Brisbane in 2020.
NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo said the event would return in 2021.
"These are challenging times for our community and our game, but we had to take this action as there was simply no other option," Abdo said.
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"We have always said we would continue but only as long as it was safe to do so for our players, staff and the wider rugby league community.
"We appreciate this will be disappointing for many people, but the NRL can assure fans that Magic Round Brisbane will return in 2021, bigger and better than ever."
Fans who have already purchased tickets or hospitality packages will be contacted directly by the NRL or Ticketek within the next week regarding how to obtain refunds.
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Players dig deep for Warriors staff
The Warriors' leadership group has shown tremendous generosity by offering to pay money to the club to help staff keep their job during the competition's hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a stuff.co.nz report, senior players Blake Green, captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Tohu Harris and Adam Blair approached team officials on Wednesday to say they would reach into their own wallets to help the club's cause.
The team has a players' fund that they put money into each month for team lunches and activities so the leadership group elected to put more money into that kitty this month and donate it to the club.
Warriors CEO Cameron George was full of praise for the players, saying it was a prime example of the strong culture that has been instilled in the club by the senior players and coach Stephen Kearney.
The Warriors gained the admiration of the rest of the NRL recently when they elected to remain in Australia after their first game and transfer their round-two clash to the Gold Coast after the Australian and New Zealand governments introduced stricter travel restrictions while they were on a road trip to Newcastle.
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Tigers to play Dogs on Sunday, sort of
The Wests Tigers are the first club to get creative ahead of what would've been round three of the Telstra Premiership with a battle between against Bulldogs in Fortnite being staged on Sunday.
Live-streamed via the club's Facebook page at 4.05pm (the time they would've kicked off at Campbelltown Stadium), the match is set to feature two players from each NRL club.
It's understood the Wests Tigers are eager to explore future match-ups against clubs in line with their NRL draw, with the Warriors, Eels and Panthers a possibility over the next month.
Meanwhile, Wests Tigers forward Josh Aloiai felt the force of a sledge from teammate Josh Reynolds after setting up a gym circuit in his garage after players were told to train from their homes from Tuesday.
Big League on pause
The official NRL magazine, Big League, will suspend its publication indefinitely until the competition hiatus is declared over.
Big League magazine editor Maria Tsialis said the small editorial team were in good spirits.
"It's not the way we obviously wanted to celebrate our 100th year of publication," Tsialis told NRL.com.
"But when you consider our run … we have only ever not gone to print during the Super League split and even before that something like the world wars
"We're confident the company and NRL are behind us and we'll be back. Hopefully it will go for a few more years to come and we'll be ready for when the NRL is ready to go again."
Tsialis said the magazine's staff would take annual or unpaid leave before returning soon.
"We'll take a couple of weeks off now but will then start getting onto our social media platforms and create a bit of discussion online and possibly even give away a few prizes down the track," she said.
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Wade floats Origin idea
Cronulla skipper Wade Graham has floated the idea of playing State of Origin to launch the return of the NRL competition should it again be safe for players to take the field in 2020.
On Tuesday the NRL laid out multiple schedule possibilities to clubs after games were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, with potential start times ranging from June to September.
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As the jewel in rugby league's crown, State of Origin is also viewed as priority in any NRL return to play, with state coaches Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters both happy to play the series in the middle of summer if need be.
Graham meanwhile is considering a different tack, proposing the Origin series could act as a precursor to any competition return, bringing the game back using its elite representative product.
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"I think we should have Origin back in when we get that first weekend back in with the crowds to kick it back off," Graham told Fox League.
"I think all ideas need to be explored.
"When we get more clarity on when the season may be able to continue, we need to put everything on the table to try and get the footy going and get the revenue back in the game."
Panthers gear up for isolation training
Shaun shores up home gym
With home training and self-isolation in store for around 450 players across the game, clubs are preparing their stars for potentially months of separation from their teammates.
The likes of Melbourne, Penrith and Cronulla have all given their players extended breaks from team training, with the Sharks playing group called into the club's old Pointsbet Stadium facilities on Tuesday before taking a six-week hiatus.
Players each took home some form of equipment from the club's gym to keep them going while the competition is suspended, among them star five-eighth Shaun Johnson spotted loading an exercise bike into the back of his ute.
Melbourne confident of waiting out the coronavirus
Mini pre-season option
This is one pre-season the NRL players will be happy to go through.
If the NRL is able to restart the Telstra Premiership later this year, CEO Todd Greenberg has indicated the players will go through "some form of mini pre-season" to get back in shape for the resumption of play.
"What we’re looking at is, if we can get ourselves to a point where we know that there’s a start date again, we will have to establish a period before that with some form of a mini pre-season,” Greenberg said on Nine's 100% Footy on Monday night.
"We’re going to have to work on that with the RLPA and all our clubs.
"If the players go into a break, we’re going to have to reset the preparation for the next part of the season."
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Bellamy: Everyone willing to play until end of year
"Hopefully the NRL can see their way clear to have some sort of competition towards the middle of the year, towards the end of the year," he said.
"The clubs and the players are willing to play up until December. Hopefully we'll get some sort of footy in."
JT calls for unity
Cowboys legend Johnathan Thurston is fearful for the future of rugby league amid the global coronavirus pandemic and has called on everyone to rally together in this difficult time.
Speaking on Nine's 100% Footy on Monday night, the former Maroons and Kangaroos star said the community needed to remain united in this unprecedented time.
"No one's been through this as a society, as a game. The thought of clubs collapsing is a scary thought. What we have to do is get through it together, it’s the only thing we can do," he said.
"It’s a scary situation.
"It’s a strange feeling for a lot of the people out there. We just need to look out for each other and get each other through this difficult time we’re facing."
NRL suspends season in wake of COVID-19 outbreak
Seibold: Player safety paramount
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold was one of the first coaches to respond to the news and indicated what the next steps may be in the coming days for all clubs and players.
"The health and safety of our players and staff and the wider community is the priority at the moment, so we’ll abide by the decision and we’ll get briefed over the next few days on what the competition might look like next," Seibold said.
"We’ll brief the players after we get information on the possible contingencies from the NRL, when the competition may start again – we’ve got some plans in place that will keep the group working towards our performances in the back end of the year, or whenever the competition restarts.
"On behalf of the Broncos we really appreciate all the members and our supporters, and wider rugby league supporters, for their support in what has been a really challenging period for not just people in rugby league but in the wider community in some unprecedented time.
"Hopefully over the first two weeks of the competition we helped put some smiles on Broncos members' and supporters' faces and stick by us and know that we will be well planned so that when the competition gets underway again, we will be ready to play."
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Stuart confident code will bounce back
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart was confident the code would overcome any future challenges headed its way following the announcement.
"Rugby league has bounced back from many challenges before and I know the united approach from the clubs and game will see the game return when we can," Stuart said.
The NRL is taking the unprecedented step of suspending the season due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The ARL Commission held a meeting at Rugby League Central on Monday and right up until midway through Monday afternoon NRL officials were determined to keep the competition going given the financial fallout of postponing games, however the rapidly shifting nature of the pandemic has forced the NRL’s hand.
It is understood medical authorities updated their advice, which meant the Commission had to put its competition on hold.
Club CEOs were informed of the decision during a phone hook-up on Monday evening, with CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC chairman Peter V'landys announcing the hiatus shortly afterwards.
"Our pandemic and biosecurity experts said due to the outbreak it is no longer safe for our players to play," V'landys said.
"We are going to look at all the options."