AAP Rugby

NRL eye contingencies for contamination

By AAP Newswire

The NRL is considering adding gap weekends to its draw or playing catch-up games during the State of Origin period as contingencies for the coronavirus.

NRL bosses will meet with broadcasters next week to hear their preferences for a reworked schedule, before Wayne Pearce's Project Apollo committee reconvene on Friday.

The league is hopeful a clearer season structure can then be confirmed for the May 28 restart, although that process could be delayed into next month depending on government restrictions.

The most likely option at this stage is a full 15 rounds where each team plays each other once, as well as any number of additional rounds that would include rivalry and grudge matches.

Origin is also expected to stay during the regular competition, with broadcasters to discuss if it stays in its current format of two games on Wednesday and one on a Sunday night.

Pearce's innovation committee will also likely plan for a worst-case scenario, including how games can be caught up if someone in the game contracts the virus.

One option is to build free weekends into the draw that would allow multiple games to be caught up if earlier matches have to be postponed.

Another is for matches to be played on Origin weekends without NSW and Queensland players.

The current split-round format which precedes the two Wednesday night Origin games could also provide space for required games to be played.

The Origin period also may not necessarily be played right in the middle of the season as usual, again offering officials more flexibility with games.

"We have to factor in contingencies if there is a contamination at some point, we have to factor in how games can be made up as well," Pearce told AAP.

"There is a whole lot of moving pieces and stuff that has to be looked at.

"(Origin) will be more than likely within the competition somewhere. Whether it's in the middle of the season we don't know.

"Because that gives us a bit more flexibility with the competition if we had to make up games.

"Or we could also have another free weekend in there at some point."

Pearce said his committee had "a whole lot of streams of work" as options, largely dependent on whether state borders are open when the competition restarts.

That would at least allow for interstate travel and players of an Australian-based club to remain in their own homes for the duration of the season.

"We're going to have to be patient. We'll have scenarios for each contingency," ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said.

"We're hoping it will be a situation where it was in round two where we can charter planes and go to the different states.

"And that's the plan. But naturally we will have to wait until we see the government has relaxed those travel restrictions.

"That's why we needed a commencement date so we can start planning all the different scenarios we might face."