We’ve already been robbed of watching Cameron Munster in an Origin decider because of COVID-19 and if NRL clubs are intent on winning the premiership this year with a full complement of players, they need to re-enter a bubble.
Players, coaches and officials have made plenty of sacrifices over the last three years to keep the competition going throughout the pandemic, and now that we’re entering the business end of the season, they can’t afford to lose their big names.
Under the current health advice, anyone who tests positive to the virus MUST isolate for seven days, meaning these clubs could lose a key member of the squad for one or two games, which in turn could derail their chances of lifting the Provan-Summons Trophy .
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They can’t train with their teammates, they can’t visit the local gym to keep up their level of fitness and for some, the lingering effects of the virus can affect your breathing.
Whether you agree or disagree with the current rules, the NRL clubs HAVE to follow them.
Think about it for a second.
You’ve got the Penrith Panthers leading the competition by eight points and the mountain men are on track to claim the minor premiership. That won’t mean much if they qualify for the grand final and lose the biggest game of the year with a second string side because their superstars are watching on from isolation.
The North Queensland Cowboys have been one of the stories of 2022 and if they go all the way it would be a rags to riches story. Todd Payten should be applauded for the work he’s done in turning around the club’s fortunes in 12 months, but that could all go out the window if the likes of Tom Dearden and Jason Taumalolo test positive to COVID-19 at the business end of the season .
The NRL finals series is supposed to be reserved for the best of the best, but the clubs are concerned about the looming threat of the virus which is running rampant through the community in what’s being described by health officials as a “third wave.”
The Rugby League Players Association is hesitant to reintroduce the bubble with CEO Clint Newtown saying, “We are 100 percent supportive of the current common sense approach.”
The RLPA insists the players will take ownership of their movements during the finals, but if I cast my mind back to last week, South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou and a handful of his players were in the crowd at the Nikita Tszyu boxing bout at the Hordern Pavilion in the lead-up to their blockbuster against the Melbourne Storm.
Demetriou confused a lot of people when he suggested the Rabbitohs might introduce a self-imposed bubble before the end of the regular season with the coach saying, “We need to protect the integrity of the game.”
Just days earlier, ahead of a big-game, the coach and his players were in a packed room watching the boxing.
Cronulla Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon took a more cautious approach when he joined the 2GB’s Continuous Call Team at Panthers Leagues on Saturday in support of the NSWRL licensed clubs round.
‘Fitzy’ made his way straight up onto the stage to avoid anyone potentially infected with the virus. He was then ushered through a side door at the Leagues Club and away from the fans to reduce the threat of him contracting COVID-19.
If the coaches, players and clubs are judged on results, surely they want the best possible team on the football field, instead of players running the risk of contracting the virus and missing the finals series.
It might not be a popular opinion in rugby league, but the increased restrictions could end up protecting the players and their tilt at winning an elusive premiership
My question to them; is a six-week bubble really the end of the world?
Let me know your thoughts by sending through an email to the WWOS Radio show by clicking on this link; https://form.jotform.co/70601482897867
Wide World of Sports Radio is heard from 6pm AEST on 2GB 873am with Mark Levy and co-hosts Billy Slater (Monday), Paul Gallen (Tuesday) and Brad Fittler (Wednesday).
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