The NRL will introduce new Level 4+ protocols as part of an agreement with the Queensland Government for round 20 of the Telstra Premiership to be completed on Sunday and Monday.
The three originally scheduled Saturday games will now be played on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium, headlined by a 4.05pm Storm v Panthers blockbuster.
Sunday’s fixtures have been switched to Monday to ensure the entire round is completed ahead of round 21.
While the 13 NSW, ACT and Victorian-based teams are in South-East Queensland's lockdown, Level 4+ protocols will be implemented which include the use of one venue, daily testing of players, compulsory masks for all staff and officials not playing as well as reduced personnel at games.
Revised round 20 draw
- 1.50pm: Knights v Raiders
- 4.05pm: Storm v Panthers
- 6.25pm: Dragons v Rabbitohs
- 6pm: Bulldogs v Titans
- 8.05pm: Sharks v Sea Eagles
In a statement issued by the NRL on Saturday night, ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys expressed his gratitude to the Queensland government for "allowing us to present the most stringent biosecurity protocols which when implemented will ensure there is minimal to no risk in allowing our matches to be played with no crowds".
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NRL CEO Andrew Abdo thanked the clubs and players for their flexibility in adjusting to the new draw.
"I would like to thank the clubs, both players and officials for their flexibility, teamwork and co-operation in adjusting to the new stringent protocols and the revised schedule," he said.
Clubs have been advised that players or officials who make a substantive breach to protocols face being immediately removed from the competition, including being removed from the state for the 13 non-Queensland based clubs.
"Our games will be played under the toughest protocols since the competition resumed on May 28 last year," he said.
"These protocols further minimise the risk of community infection. We’ve proven over the last two years that we can play safely and the additional measures agreed to tonight will further enhance that."
All five games will be played in an empty stadium and players and officials will remain under the protocols for the duration of the lockdown.
Saturday’s three matches were postponed on health advice after a snap three-day lockdown was announced due to six new locally acquired COVID-19 cases in Brisbane.
V’landys is hopeful the lockdown will end on Tuesday as planned and players can reunite with their families, who are set to complete their two-week quarantine the following day.
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He said the NRL was working toward the competition then proceeding in South-East Queensland as expected.
V’landys reiterated that quarantining families on the Gold Coast “aren’t affected at this point”.
“It doesn’t affect them because they’re still in there until Wednesday,” he said.
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“If all goes to plan and the lockdown finishes on Tuesday, they’ll reunite with their families on Wednesday and we’re back to normal.
“Even if the lockdown continues, those families will go out of quarantine and with their husbands and families.”
In the event that South-East Queensland’s lockdown was extended, V’landys said the NRL will have several choices available to keep the game going.
"If that did occur, and that’s the worst-case scenario, we’d be able to play with no crowds [in Queensland]," he told Fox League..
"That’s one option. We have other options. There’s still Victoria, there’s New South Wales, and we have been looking at these options.
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"We’re quietly confident that on Tuesday the [Queensland] Government will have it [the COVID-19 situation] under control."
V’landys believes there will be “absolutely zero risk” in the competition resuming in South-East Queensland.
And while the postponed matches were “very expensive”, V’landys said the NRL is in a solid financial position to absorb the blows.