The NRL has announced that the Telstra Premiership will recommence as a 20-round competition on May 28 with the Grand Final to be played on October 25, casting more doubt on whether the Ashes series between England and Australia will go ahead in the autumn, which is due to begin at Bolton on Saturday 31 October.
Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Chair Peter V’landys has confirmed the Premiership details after consulting with broadcast partners, clubs, and key stakeholders.
The first two rounds of the competition will be counted and the current competition ladder remains in place when games resume.
The competition draw will be determined in the coming weeks, including timing of State of Origin, which is likely to take place after the Grand Final, which would almost certainly ensure the cancellation of the Ashes series.
V’landys thanked Nine CEO Hugh Marks and Foxtel CEO Patrick Delany for backing the return of Rugby League.
“Today is a landmark day for Rugby League in 2020,” he said.
“This is a great outcome for our players, fans, partners and stakeholders and I’m extremely appreciative for the cooperation and support from Hugh Marks (Channel 9) and Patrick Delany (Fox Sports). Both have always acted in good spirit and have demonstrated how partners work together.”
Training will recommence for all clubs on May 4 and stringent biosecurity measures, known as Project Apollo Protocols, will be introduced for players, club officials and staff. These protocols will be more strict than the current public health guidelines and players will face sanctions if they breach the protocols.
The New Zealand Warriors are expected to arrive in Australia on Sunday and it is anticipated they will serve 14-days quarantine in Tamworth. The NRL is continuing to work with federal and state governments on player travel and border permissions.
“It’s safer now to play then it was in Round 2 when we were playing,” added V’landys.
“The daily infection rate in NSW was 25.79% when the last game was played. It has been now less than 1% in NSW for the last 18 days and is continuing to drop. There has also been a significant improvement in the recovery rate, being 75% in NSW and 83% in Australia.
“Our players will be safer under our protocols than they would be as regular members of the community.”
The NRL’s working group, Project Apollo, will meet tomorrow (Wednesday) to continue preparations to resume the season.