Just four short days after NRL CEO Todd Greenberg resigned from his job, plans for a resumption of professional rugby league in Australia seem even more muddied. The May 28 date which Project Apollo's Wayne Pearce enthusiastically reconfirmed on Wednesday looks shaky after coming under attack on two key fronts.
Still at the negotiation table with ARLC Chairman Peter V'Landys, the Nine Network insists on making public its concerns for the way the game is handling the proposed return. Like pointing out every little ding on a used car in an effort to talk down its price, Nine are determined to pay as little as possible for what will be left of the NRL season. With V'landys keeping details of the negotiations private, the noise from Nine seems at best unprofessional.
In a statement released late yesterday Nine questioned the May 28 start date.
"Although we agree constructive discussions have been held between the NRL, Nine and Foxtel, we feel it's premature to be confirming a start date at this stage," a Nine spokesman said.
"There is a great will to work together to an outcome but a lot of work still to do. A deal needs to be completed and the structure of the competition locked, which importantly must include how it will operate within the health-and-safety standards currently affecting the community."
V'landys appears to be reaching the point of frustration, insisting that the season details need to be finalised on Friday.
"We've got two different broadcasters. One has a different view to the other," V'landys told Nine's Today Show.
"Today is D-Day for me. A decision will be made as to the length of the season, between the two broadcasters.
"We will meet our contractual obligations to the broadcasters, but a decision has to be made.
"I think the procrastination has been taking long enough, and decisions will be made today."
Meanwhile Rugby League Players Association chairman Clint Newton has also poured cold water on the May 28 resumption.
"We've got a level of responsibility that anyone who is associated with the Project Apollo that when we come out of those meetings is a true reflection on where we landed," Newton said.
"There is no definite start date. They are dates we are working towards.
"And the players are very much standing shoulder to shoulder with the clubs and game on trying to resume.
"But the reality is there are a number of hurdles that we still need to get over before players can resume training and start playing again."
It is unclear how far Greenberg's interim replacement Andrew Abdo has waded into the turmoil at this point, but V'Landys appears to be the lone voice of the game at the moment, insisting that the safety side of the equation is completely under control.
"Look, we have done our negotiation with governments," V'landys said.
"We are applying to governments. We are applying to governments. We'll continue to do so.
"It's five weeks away. In the last 14 days, our infection rate has been less than one percent. We are confident that it's safe.
"The risk is minimal to zero. So why shouldn't we start playing? Why are we going to rob our fans and players, because of scaremongering and alarmist rhetoric?"
V'landys indicated that the Queensland Government would be presented with a plan on Friday which he hopes will allow teams to travel between the two states. If approved it would mean that the three Queensland teams would not need to base themselves in New South Wales.
It was always going to be a tough task, resuming a game in the face of the worst medical crisis the world has faced in over 100 years. Having key partners publicly spouting their doubts is not going to help, especially when Government agencies are involved. The NRL needs to present a united front if they are going to convince anybody that a May 28 resumption is a good idea.
The biggest problem appears to be that Nine is putting its own financial interests above any other considerations, even if they are trying their best to make it sound like they are the logical voice in this debate.