Michael Chammas 34 mins ago
South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett has cancelled planned training sessions for next week as the NRL considers sending independent spies into clubs to ensure biosecurity protocols are being followed.
With speculation rife that several clubs were planning secret sessions next week, and that some teams may have already breached government rules, the NRL emphasised the severity of punishments that would be applied during a phone hook-up with clubs on Wednesday afternoon.
The NRL threatened to dock competition points and hand down heavy fines for those clubs in breach of the rules.
It comes as ARLC chairman Peter V’landys met with Channel Nine chief executive Hugh Marks at the network’s Willoughby offices on Wednesday morning to continue discussions around a potential three-year broadcast rights extension with the current partners. Marks later met with Foxtel boss Patrick Delany, with the game’s powerbrokers hopeful of broadcast clarity in time for Friday’s innovation committee meeting pencilled in to discuss the season structure. Interim chief executive Andrew Abdo confirmed to clubs that “long term security” was a priority in discussions with its broadcast partners but wouldn’t comment on the negotiation.
Bennett, who was part of Wednesday’s innovation committee meeting, denied his club would return prior to the agreed May 4 training date after Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook let slip that his teammates had been assigned to small group sessions next week. “I was there today and we all agreed what we are going to do,” Bennett said of the ‘Project Apollo’ meeting.
"We (South Sydney) put some plans in place last week not knowing what the future held. We were just trying to get ahead of the game and put temporary plans in place subject to today’s meeting. They will be changing now. "All the clubs would have been in the same boat, making plans around next week until we got told what was happening. We are all pretty adamant that we need to start on the same day. We will be waiting for the Warriors.“If we don’t follow those rules, we will lose points or be fined - it’s as simple as that. It won’t be happening at Souths. I’m more than happy with that. I think it’s really good the way we are approaching it as a game. There are a lot of protocols around what we are doing.”
The NRL is pushing ahead with plans for a May 28 competition restart, with NRL head of football Graham Annesley breaking down a 50-page biosecurity report to send to clubs on Friday. As part of the strict measures that will be introduced, the NRL is designing an app that will monitor players’ temperatures and health. The NRL is also considering sending independent experts to ensure clubs are complying with the rules, and will report back to head office with major breaches if there is complete disregard for the measures in place.
Wednesday’s series of meetings also determined that:
The competition points and differential accrued in the opening two rounds will remain.
Proposal put forward to begin season playing out of two venues (ANZ Stadium and Bankwest) until border restrictions are relaxed.
No back-to-back games at same venue. Any matches at the same venue must be separated by two hours to ensure sanitation procedure. First and third game on Saturdays could be played at same venue.
Traditional format (no conference system) with length of season to be determined as early as Friday.
Limiting training to a squad of just 30 players and 15 staff.
The potential cancellation or postponement of Cricket World Cup could be a boost to the NRL’s broadcast deal.
“We were just trying to get ahead of the game” - this is what every club does, try to find ways to get ahead of the others in ways the others hadn’t thought of yet. (Sharks peptides, Storm grappling, Panthers sex videos (lol)) It’s up to the NRL to make clear what is acceptable and what isn’t.
The ‘spies’ checking up on the clubs is a good thing. Making the spies public is also good, lets the clubs and fans know that the NRL is doing their job.