Rugby League season on a knife edge

Upfront: The League Express Editorial – Mon 7th Sept 2020 

So far five Rugby League clubs – Catalans, Hull FC, St Helens, Wakefield Trinity and Warrington Wolves – have returned one or more positive tests for the Covid virus.

Given the number of players in Super League, the numbers testing positive are not high, but the problem is that one positive test is one too many.

League Express reporter Matthew Shaw has written about his recent visit to Huddersfield Giants to investigate the procedures that clubs have to follow to make themselves Covid compliant.

It’s hard not to read that article and not sympathise with the officials and players of Super League clubs.

The requirements appear to be stringent and, hopefully, foolproof and they certainly are making the experience of being a Rugby League player very different to what it was, for example, a year ago.

But the problem is that the RFL regulations do not require players to be in a tight bubble in quite the same way that NRL players are, for example.

The NRL began playing again on 28 May, and so far that competition doesn’t appear to have had a single positive test for the Covid virus. That is a remarkable record, but the NRL has achieved it by effectively isolating players, in some cases from their own families.

That hasn’t happened in Super League, where players, once they are away from their clubs, have more freedom to mix with their families than NRL players appear to have.

But that leads to significant dangers that Super League players will be in contact with the virus.

For example, most players probably have children who will have returned to school recently.

It’s almost impossible to imagine that some children will not be infected with the virus at school, no matter how many precautions schools take with their pupils.

If that were to happen, there would be every chance that one or more players would test positive after being in contact with their own children.

No one would be to blame, but inevitably we would see more clubs being prevented from playing matches.

It means that Super League is inevitably skating on thin ice, and those officials who are running the competition inevitably need to make contingency plans, just in case the worst-case scenario actually happens.

We don’t envy them their jobs.

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