The Southern Hemisphere: COVID’s impact on rugby league

BARNET, ENGLAND - JANUARY 19: Sean Maitland of Saracens is tackled by Louis Dupichot of Racing 92 during the Heineken Champions Cup Round 6 match between Saracens and Racing 92 at Allianz Park on January 19, 2020 in Barnet, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

The world is going through a tough time right now, which includes the rugby league southern hemisphere community. However, it is not just a human toll, but an economic toll. This includes Australia and New Zealand, which have teams in the National Rugby League (NRL).

COVID’s impact on the southern hemisphere for rugby league

National Rugby League (NRL)

Southern hemisphere: Pay cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic

The NRL was not in a good position in March, players faced a looming 87% pay cut because of the coronavirus pandemic according to WWOS staff of wwos.nine.com.

This massive pay cut caught the attention of many NRL players including Joey Leilua according to Matt Logue of The Daily Telegraph.

“There are players on minimum wage, and they have got young families. It is not fair that the administration only wanted to take a 25 per cent cut while these players who are on minimum wage take a bigger cut. Those players do the same pre-season, the same training as players on bigger wages like me, but we expect them to take the same pay cut,” said Leilua.

Fortunately, the pay cut was reduced to 20% in March. A big part of that was the NRL returning to play on May 28.

NRL returning to action

The NRL returned on May 28, the Parramatta Eels defeating the Brisbane Broncos 34-6 at Suncorp Stadium behind closed doors.

Commentator and former player Peter Sterling talks about the process of playing the first game on March 28 with Phil Mercer of voanews.com.

“I thought that it was the height of optimism that six weeks ago May 28 would be a starting date for us because we knew that there were going to be so many obstacles.”

According to Chloe Hart of abc.net.au, the Australian government has allowed stadiums up to 40,000 seats to have at maximum 10,000 fans. However, this only applies to most NRL clubs.

The Melbourne Storm has not trained at the AAMI Park base for three weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic reported by Sam Phillips of The Sydney Morning Herald. Their next few home games will be at Sunshine Coast Stadium in the state of Queensland. Furthermore, the New Zealand Warriors, who are based in Auckland, New Zealand are playing all their games in Australia.

However, even with these complications, professional rugby league has allowed fans into the game. Even though the fans attending the game have been restricted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, there are fears of more cases happening in Australia, which includes the state of Victoria in Australia. They have had 270 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours according to Lidia Kelly of The Chronicle Herald on July 14. This is a big reason why Melbourne, a city within the state of Victoria, is not hosting home games anymore.

Overview of COVID’s impact on the southern hemisphere

COVID-19 has had a financial impact on all sports leagues in the world. This includes rugby league in the southern hemisphere. Rugby union in the southern hemisphere has also been impacted, and was reported previously by Last Word on Rugby.

However, it is not so bad when looking at this situation from another point of view. At least most NRL teams are allowed to have crowds within the games. Most professional sports leagues around the world are playing behind empty crowds or have been cancelled. The Barclays Premier League and Major League Soccer (MLS) are examples of leagues currently playing behind closed doors.

The first NRL game with crowds since the coronavirus pandemic started was between the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and the Brisbane Broncos on June 11.

Major League Rugby (MLR) and Súper Liga Americana de Rugby (SLAR), are the only two professional rugby union leagues in the Americas. They have both decided to cancel their 2020 seasons.

The Australian and New Zealand governments and health officials deserve a lot of credit for this. They have been able to deal with the coronavirus pandemic better than most countries around the world. As a result, they have crowds in games and no team has dropped out because of numerous players not testing positive for the coronavirus. Their efforts are also a big reason why fans are able to attend NRL games in the southern hemisphere.

 

“Main photo credit”

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