The NRL has announced up to 12 teams will move to Queensland on Wednesday in an effort to keep the competition up and running amid Sydney’s growing Covid-19 crisis.
The Daily Telegraph is reporting all nine Sydney-based teams, as well as the Canberra Raiders, Newcastle Knights and New Zealand Warriors, will be give 48 hours notice to move north of the border by Wednesday.
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The nine affected Sydney teams are the Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Parramatta Eels, Canterbury Bulldogs, Cronulla Sharks, St George Illawarra Dragons, Manly Sea Eagles, Penrith Panthers and the Wests Tigers.
At this stage, only the Melbourne Storm and the three Queensland-based teams will be allowed to stay at their home bases.
Each club will be permitted to have a total of 41 people in their biosecure team ‘bubble’, which would likely include 30 players and 11 staff.
NRL officials and club CEOs were entering into crisis talks on Sunday night, as they look to find a way to safely move Sydney’s teams out of Covid hotspots and into Queensland to finish the season.
Significantly, family members will be able to join the players, but they will have to quarantine for 14 days before entering the bubble.
“The NRL are telling the clubs at the moment that all nine Sydney clubs, the Canberra Raiders, Newcastle Knights and New Zealand Warriors are all going to go the Gold Coast and have a bubble there,” Matthew Johns said on Fox League.
“It could be up to eight weeks.
“Families are allowed to go. They’ll have to quarantine for a couple of weeks before they enter the bubble.
“All the games will be played out of Cbus Super stadium or Suncorp Stadium. Apparently there are moving parts everywhere, they’re going to have to tinker with the draw.
“But anything to keep the competition up and going.”
“We’ve been preparing for multiple scenarios and one of them is relocation,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told the Sunday Footy show.
“In this particular case we have nine Sydney-based teams and so it’s very much on the cards that we may need to for a short period of time relocate them to somewhere where there’s a much lower risk of infection”.
“We’ve been working on it for a number of weeks in terms of preparation, now it becomes the practical elements that … we’ll have a discussion with our board this evening and then we’ll start communicating plans through to our different stakeholders.”
It comes as the NRL was forced to relocate Origin III for the second time this week, announcing on Saturday evening that the third game of the series would be played on the Gold Coast rather than in Newcastle.
As Sydney scrambles to contain its outbreak of Covid-19, the NRL moved on Wednesday to shift the game up the M1 and into Knights territory.
However, the league backflipped on Saturday, annnouncing that the NSW Government had blocked the venue change out of fear it could spread Covid-19 to Newcastle and surrounding areas.
More to come.