Further COVID-19 outbreaks inevitable if ‘loose’ protocols remain, warns Huddersfield Giants head coach Simon Woolford

Simon Woolford believes the RFL’s ‘loose’ protocols meant an outbreak of COVID-19 was always going to happen.

The Huddersfield head coach was not surprised to learn six Hull FC players and two members of their coaching staff had contracted COVID-19, saying the procedures in place meant it was a case of when and not if.

It was news that left Super League in crisis but Woolford believes there will be further repeats throughout the season if the rules aren’t tightened up.

“This was inevitable. It was going to happen,” he said.

“It’s been pretty loose from an RFL point of view. I’ve heard that the RFL don’t have the resources to do bubbles like the NRL have.

“But with the looseness around what players are doing away from footy I think there was always going to be an instance of what we’ve seen this week at Hull FC.

“It’s an unfortunate one and I don’t think there’s any real knowledge yet on where it came from.

“I’ve said all along that when we first started getting back into training I was really surprised that there weren’t some stringent protocols put in place from the RFL, the governing body.

“I’d be surprised if this is the only case we have between now and the end of the season.”

Many have called for the RFL to now replicate the social bubbles in place in the NRL, a proposal Woolford has encouraged the game over here to explore.

“I just think there’d be a lot more buy-in from the players and clubs if the RFL had a stricter protocol on what the do’s and don’ts for players and expectations of players were outside of their footy commitments,” he said.

“We just had a meeting this morning at our club and, let’s be honest, the players at times think it’s just the club being painful and over-exaggerating the situation and why are we doing this and why are we doing that.

“Whereas I think if there’d been some rules and regulations in place from the governing body, there would be a lot more buy-in.

“It’s not hard to see on social media that there’s players from all clubs out and about doing things that probably they should be a little bit more careful with but what’s done is done now.

“I’m not saying the FC guys were doing the wrong thing. What I am saying is I don’t think there’s been enough strict protocol policy from the governing body.”

He added: “We had a long time in lockdown to get this right and I just think it could have been stronger from the powers-that-be; it doesn’t take a lot of money to make some rules and regulations, some dos and don’ts and impose sanctions on clubs and players who want to go outside of those protocols.

“It’s as inevitable what happened at Hull would happen somewhere and I can only cross my fingers and hope it is the one and only.

“When these protocols from the governing body with strict sanctions they have a lot more power rather than just letting clubs let to their own devices and players thinking the Covid officer at the club is just being a pain in the bum.”