NRL set to be ‘first Rugby League competition’ to return

NRL set to be 'first Rugby League competition' to return
ALBURY, AUSTRALIA - MAY 07: Brenko Lee of the Storm passes the ball during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Albury Tigers Club on May 07, 2020 in Albury, Australia. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

After doubts to start with, in fact the NRL is set to be ‘first Rugby League competition’ to return in a professional capacity, should be applauded for it.

Few at the beginning believed that conditions and player welfare could allow for any rugby league competition during the Coronavirus pandemic but, to the credit of the organizers, stakeholders, and the teams, players, and coaching staff, the NRL returns on Thursday, May 28th.

League has all the green lights required to start play on Thursday, making it Australasia’s first professional team-based competition to restart.

NRL set to be ‘first Rugby League competition’ to return

Some newsreaders are still reporting the restart with amazement. For one, that it progressed to this stage as much as, that the timeline indicated has rung true. Few would doubt the attitude and commitment by the NRL, to stick to its schedule, and to achieve what it was promising.

To be first, first, you must be brave.

And for professional sport in Australia, the NRL took the boldest steps early. If a timeline were stated, it would show that first, they spoke about ‘the Game’ returning early. Yet, at that time, few even thought it a possibility.

‘How dare they be so presumptuous’ were the calls. The risks were too high – the pandemic sweeping Australia and New Zealand – and health watchdogs dismissed the intentions. Accurately identified by the almost unparalleled confidence – maybe overconfidence – of Peter V’landys. It seemed he held an unwavering commitment to fulfill his statement of intent from the outset. Negotiating and reacting to obstacles, to effectively maneuver the bureaucracy and policies.

Never faltering, even pushing aside his chief executive Todd Greenberg in the process, to ensure a smooth and well-considered plan.

May 28th NRL restart planned without CEO Todd Greenberg

Success in meeting May 28th start date a huge positive for NRL

Originally conceived as possible within an NRL player exclusive bubble, thoughts of a rugby league competition being played at a resort island seemed ludicrous. Then a Sydney compound was formulated, with all 16 teams located in secure surroundings, those conditions eased as the Coronavirus outbreak eased. The state and federal governments accommodated the game being played, so that Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland soon endorsed the concept.

So when the teams arrive at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, both teams will be within their own ‘workplaces’ with little or no interaction prior to kickoff [to meet strict operating conditions]. At that point, it will be seen as a success. This is no longer a discussion just for show, the game is set to kick-off.

The substance and the sustainability of the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership depended on how thorough and fully compliant to all regulations, V’landys and his organization had been. In Australia, the NRL rugby league competition will be the leader in how to successfully adapt to Covid-19, to make all the changes required in terms of players’ health and welfare.

Others will look to follow the leader. As well as coordinating the broadcast deal that will allow fans to again watch the game played.

The game resumes; in empty stadiums (to open with) be it with a potentially huge TV audience. After weeks of zero football, the availability of rugby league competition before other codes is ‘a win’ for the game.

Highlights will only fuel so much interest. Now, the sport has to perform on the biggest stage. Because with nothing else to distract – until Super Rugby returns on June 13 – the 13 man code will be stage-center.

And for the gladiatorial sport, one who has proven that confidence [near on arrogance] can still be the most active position to be in, they have disproved the doubters. Take a stand, set a date, and do everything you can to meet that; the NRL and ARL commission are trendsetters, in the face of Coronavirus-adverse times.

That is worthy of applause alone, even before the whistle blows on Thursday night.

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The 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership draw sees teams play in empty stadiums, while health and social distancing guidelines are in place. Those are expected to ease, by the time that the NRL playoffs start in October.

 

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