Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler has revealed why some Manly players have worn face masks at training this week in order to limit the potential spread of coronavirus.
"It's to keep fingers away from the mouth," Hasler said. "[It's for] when you're at training and you're forgetful. They have been wearing it in the gym and things like that. Whatever they feel comfortable with.
"You've got to be respectful with each individual as to how it impacts them. We're all different."
Burleigh DJ puts hand up for Warriors
Burleigh Bears captain Luke Page has put up his hand to help the New Zealand Warriors if they need reinforcements.
The 29-year-old Kumuls prop, also an in-demand disc jockey known known as “DJ Moey Fresh”, is also keen to hear from the NRL if they need some music put together to boost the atmosphere at empty stadiums in the coming weeks.
Page, who skippered Burleigh to a premiership last year, has no football on the horizon until at least June 5 in wake of the Intrust Super Cup being suspended.
He has played 11 Tests for PNG and spent time in the Titans, Raiders and Dragons systems
The Warriors, based in Australia indefinitely while the coronavirus pandemic plays out, have a squad of 24 players to pick from at the moment with three of those on the development list and two on train and trial deals.
"I would definitely consider it if the Warriors need some help. With my work as a builder I have to keep the money rolling in because my mortgage is still there," Page told NRL.com
“I would have to get paid the right amount but it would be a good opportunity with the Warriors. I am definitely keen.”
The Bears beat the Titans in a trial recently and Page and his teammates are in peak physical condition, but with nowhere to play and without a key income stream.
Robinson says fans get to witness pure footy
TV exposure so important: Robinson
Roosters coach Trent Robinson said it was great to see Thursday night's game on television, underlining the importance of the Telstra Premiership continuing.
Robinson tuned into the Bulldogs v Cowboys clash at ANZ Stadium and said it was a welcome distraction amid a turbulent time for the game and the world due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The Roosters have switched Saturday's clash with Manly to Leichhardt Oval after it was initially set down for Central Coast Stadium.
"We're here to play. It was great last night to go home and watch footy on television. I thought it was amazing to watch these guys go out there and perform.
"It showed how important our crowd is and how important our fans are in turning up and the atmosphere and then it also showed how important our game is to be on television, to play and represent. I thought it was great last night."
Robinson said a key to getting through the coronavirus pandemic is being honest to the players about how it will affect their preparations.
"There's things that have gone into this week which are unforeseen and then you adapt and move as you can and that's what we've done," he said.
"We've really worked hard at what the players need, what we need to perform tomorrow, what venue was going to satisfy ourselves and both teams and then we get ready to play.
"That's what the focus has been for us - ensuring health and getting ready to perform."
Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Cowboys
Warriors extend Australia stay
Warriors CEO Cameron George has on Friday announced captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and his team have reaffirmed their commitment to stay in Australia and continue in the 2020 NRL premiership.
Soon after the Australian and New Zealand governments had announced they would close their borders last night, George said the Warriors had met to confirm their desire to remain ahead of their second-round game against the Canberra Raiders in Robina on Saturday night.
They'll now follow their "home" game at Cbus Super Stadium with a trip to Sydney to face the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Lottoland on Friday, March 27.
"The entire squad is locked in and ready to go," George said. "They understand the issues that different individuals got on the table. But they're sticking together ... [The NRL] have called on us and we've stepped up to the task."
"If we were told to leave your family and live in another country for an indefinite period, not many would ... we're very proud of the players.
"The deciding factor was that it's our time to be leaders in the community and rugby league ... we're gonna stand tall and be leaders and take it on."
Bennett happy with united front
Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett believes the game working harmoniously to combat the coronavirus pandemic's impact is one positive to come from the crisis.
"It's nice to see the unity," Bennett said.
"I think the chairman [Peter V'landys] is doing a great job with it, Todd [Greenberg] has been up front with it, I think Clint Newton's been great with the players' association, CEOs have been wonderful.
"We're all on the same page and we want to play rugby league.
"We've got a great history [of division]. We think it's a great game because we fracture it so often and put it back together again. This time there is a unison with everybody and I'm pleased to be a part of that."
Bennett said continuing the Telstra Premiership goes far beyond the players and coaches.
"It's just not us, it's all about our support staff, it's all about our admin staff, it's all about the fans out there, it's all about the people who earn a living off rugby league," Bennett said.
"If we can stay on the football field, we can make a lot of people happy. And we can provide something in a time that everybody probably needs a bit to get away from all the news services about the virus."
NRL introduces self-isolation program in wake of coronavirus threat
New player safety measures announced
The NRL has announced a series of safety measures to ensure player welfare is paramount during the global coronavirus pandemic in the lead-up to round two of the Telstra Premiership.
After the ARL Commission met at Rugby League Central on Thursday, chairman Peter V'landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg announced a new "self-isolation program" for players in the Telstra Premiership.
As part of the new match-day procedures finalised in conjunction with the Rugby League Players Association, there will only be essential interaction between players and the general community.
V'landys said the NRL would continue to explore every option in the wake of the global coronavirus pandemic because "the whole survival of our game is at risk" and to ensure the safety of the players.
"We can continue to play until another contingency is encountered," he said.
"The other main objective for us is to play the whole season," he added before saying that included the finals and State of Origin series.
ARL Commission update
RLPA general manager Clint Newton said the players' union has never worked together with the NRL better than they have over the last few days.
"We will get through this. The NRL is certainly committed to work through the details of the self-isolation program with us.
"These most challenging times can be conquered when we stick together."
Kangaroo tour can be saved
England officials are hopeful the Kangaroo tour at the end of the season can still go ahead as the NRL and Super League consider extending their competitions as late as necessary to make up for any disruptions.
Australia are due to play three Tests against England at University of Bolton Stadium on October 31; Elland Road, Leeds on November 7; and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, London on November 14 but the possibility of an NRL grand final in October or November could put paid to the tour.
There is also the possibility of State of Origin being played after the NRL grand final to enable crowds to attend matches, with gate receipts for the series reportedly worth $20 million.
The Super League season is currently suspended until April 3 and officials are hoping to make up the two rounds of matches that could not be played.
However, the Rugby Football League is keen for the first Kangaroo tour since 2003 to proceed at the end of the year and believes there is too much uncertainty for any decision to be made yet.
“At the moment our contingency planning for the remainder of this season involves looking at all options but there is still more planning to be done with nothing confirmed and nothing ruled out either," an RFL spokesman said.
“We are in constant dialogue with all our partners including Super League, the Championship and League 1 clubs, and today at a meeting of the Community Board, in addition to the International Rugby League and the ARLC to explore all options."
Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga said he had not been advised of any changes to Australia's international schedule, which includes a home Test against New Zealand on October 17 and the Prime Minister's XIII playing PNG in Port Moresby a week earlier.
“The NRL premiership is important for our game so I understand that could happen but I think it's premature to make any decision about the Kangaroo tour now,” Meninga said.
Fans still part of the action
Fans won't be able to see their side in action at the ground but the NRL will do its best to cater for fan interaction and noise during round two of the Telstra Premiership with several initiatives set to take place across venues amid the coronavirus pandemic that has shut people out of games indefinitely.
From the use of the big screens with fan messages and engagement to LED signage and pre-recorded crowd noise, all will be trialled during Thursday night's clash between Canterbury and North Queensland before following on throughout the weekend.
Fans can engage by taking photos from their living rooms and post to social media, where they can then be seen by players at the ground via the appropriate game-day hashtag.
Music is also expected to be played when tries are scored or when players run out on to the field, while virtual signage to fill some of the empty seats in the lower seating bowl will also be used to enhance the viewing experience at some grounds.
Official hashtags for each game to get involved are:
NRL players consider pay cut
NRL facing season-long lockout following PM's warning
The entire 2020 NRL season could be played behind closed doors after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Wednesday that the ban on outdoor gatherings of more than 500 people could last at least six months.
Morrison addressed the media on Wednesday morning to announce a raft of new restrictions aimed at combatting the spread of coronavirus in Australia.
He said all non-essential indoor gatherings of 100 people or more will be banned in Australia and the ban on outdoor gatherings of 500 or more people would last at least six months.
The NRL's opening round was played last weekend with fans in attendance but the ban on large gatherings will see round two played at closed stadiums with no fans.
"Whatever we do, we've got to do for at least six months,” Mr Morrison said.
"Whether it is the AFL, the NRL or any others, that's a decision for them to make in accordance to rules that have been established."
Green happy with new travel plans
Cowboys employee tests negative to coronavirus
The North Queensland Cowboys have announced that former star Antonio Winterstein, who works for the club in a community role, has tested negative to the COVID-19 virus.
Warriors fly in four more players
On Wednesday afternoon the Warriors confirmed they are sending four more players to Australia to start their 14-day isolation period, with a view to them eventually joining the squad in camp.
In a sign the team is likely to remain in Australia - Gerard Beale, Jazz Tevaga, Agnatius Paasi and Josh Curran – who all missed round one through injury – will go straight to a non-disclosed location in NSW on Wednesday night.
The isolation period is set to finish in time for the players to be available for the round four clash against the Wests Tigers.
The club are also continuing to investigate the possibility of signing non NRL-contracted players from the Canterbury Cup and Intrust Super Cup competitions, which this week were suspended in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
All community rugby league postponed
The NRL, in partnership with State governing bodies, has postponed community rugby league in Australia until at least the first weekend of May.
The postponement includes all junior and senior community club rugby league competitions, training, gala days and future League Stars programs.
NSWRL's 13 major competitions, most of which started last weekend, with the exception of junior representative competitions which kicked off in February, have been suspended until May 31.
NRL Head of Football – Participation, Pathways and Game Development, Luke Ellis, said the decision to suspend community club rugby league immediately was made after consultation with the State governing bodies to assist in slowing the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The Queensland Rugby League had announced on Tuesday night that it had suspended all its statewide competitions and community rugby league.
The blue-chip Intrust Super Cup competition has been suspended until June 5 with all junior and senior community rugby league in recess until the first weekend in May.
“This public health emergency we're working through is unprecedented, and the health and safety of our participants is a priority, along with the welfare of Queensland communities,” QRL managing director Rob Moore said.
The QRL aims to restart the Intrust Super Cup on June 5 which would allow all teams in the competition to play each other once before the finals series.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand Rugby League announced on Wednesday that all community rugby league competitions, tournaments and trainings run by NZRL Zones, Districts and Clubs had been postponed until Saturday, May 2, effective immediately.
Star-studded Broncos pack beginning to come of age
Broncos 'bunker' down
The Broncos have their own ‘bunker' ready to be utilised should players be told to go into a lockdown situation as a group in the wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The NRL is investigating the feasibility of moving all 16 clubs to a single location to keep the competition going but Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold said the club had its own quarantined area to house players across the road from its Red Hill training base.
“What I do know is that we are in a great situation here. We have locked down the Cyril Connell Centre and we have 30-odd bunk beds in there that we have got ready if for whatever reason the competition has to go into isolation or be locked down,” he said.
“We have had that quarantined since before last weekend in preparation for something like this.”
Wests Tigers create own atmosphere with family and fan photos in sheds
Doueihi: Tigers would back players who stand down
Wests Tigers back Adam Doueihi says the club would back any player who doesn't want to take the field due to the conronavirus pandemic.
"I guess each player has their different opinions," Doueihi said.
"Yesterday we spoke honestly as a group and everyone that was in front of the group was pretty honest and they were happy to keep playing.
"I guess if there was a couple of players that didn't feel the need to play or don't feel comfortable playing, I know Madge [coach Michael Maguire] is really respectful of that."
Meanwhile, Elijah Taylor said he would be happy to head to a warmer climate away from his family temporarily if that's what it takes to keep the NRL running.
"We have to adapt. We're in a professional game, we're very privileged to do what we do and very fortunate to do what we do," Taylor said.
Where you can watch this week's games
NRL matches may be being played behind closed doors this week, but fans will be able to follow all the action online, on screen and on the airwaves.
Full details of where you can watch each game via television, the NRL App or streaming are here: NRL round 2: How to watch all the games
Townsend’s 'training and home' self isolating method
NRL Fan update
As you may be aware, matches in Round 2 of the NRL season will be closed to the general public.
The NRL and Clubs are currently working with ticketing agents and the Game's other partners to provide refunds to fans that have purchased single-game tickets to Round 2.
If you have purchased a ticket for a Round 2 game, you should expect to receive an email communication from Ticketek in the coming hours.
More to come