The NRL needs to organise consistent and comprehensive COVID-19 testing for the players.
The NRL needs to organise consistent and comprehensive COVID-19 testing for the players.

Project Apollo’ reveals what is needed for season return

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The NRL's Project Apollo team will soon finalise extreme protocols they hope will allow the season to resume in a bubble, with Wayne Pearce forecasting regular COVID-19 tests for players as a priority.

The league is targeting a June 1 resumption.

 

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ARL commissioner Pearce is head of the innovation committee tasked with putting isolation plans in place for that to happen, a challenge likened to putting a man on the moon given the current health crisis.

"The term I'm using is putting a bubble around the players. What that actually looks like is not definitive yet, we'll work that out by the end of this week," Pearce told 2GB radio.

There is speculation that players could be housed in one location, such as the Queensland town of Gladstone or Moreton Island's Tangalooma Island Resort.

The rugby league great suggested players would "absolutely" have to be isolated from their families, noting it was important for them to be shielded from the broader community.

 

Pearce also outlined plans for players to be tested "regularly and accurately to make sure there are no breaches" of the bubble.

"The actual format of the competition is reasonably flexible, provided that we can ensure the location - the cities or towns that we play matches in - have available testing facilities," Pearce said.

 

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"That we can turn around the results really quickly. Some facilities, you can get test results back in 3-4 hours.

"So we need to make so we need to make sure that box is ticked first and foremost. Because that's a real priority for us.

"To make sure we get on top of something (a coronavirus infection) if there is a breach. We're hoping there will be no breaches."

There have been concerns about a shortage of coronavirus test kits throughout Australia's medical community, with Health Minister Greg Hunt recently announcing that new finger-prick tests will soon be rolled out at GP clinics.

 

Wayne Pearce is the head of the NRL’s Project Apollo team.
Wayne Pearce is the head of the NRL’s Project Apollo team.

Pearce added that liaising with federal and state government would be the second phase of the project, coming after the NRL settled on its biosecurity protocols.

The actual structure of the new-look 2020 season, including the potential use of a conference system, is still being discussed.

"There's pros and cons for a number of the different models," Pearce said.

"If you put everyone inside the one bubble and there is a breach, that can potentially be a massive, massive issue.

"Rather than having smaller pods with less players in them ... it can be in a similar precinct, but you need to have that bubble around the different groups."

Originally published as Project Apollo' reveals what NRL needs to reach June 1 season return wish


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