The Warriors have landed in Tamworth and have gone into quarantine for the next two weeks, training at the impeccably turfed Scully Park. The NRL's much-derided plan to recommence its 2020 season on May 28 has passed one of the biggest hurdles, relocating the one international team. It just remains for the Melbourne Storm to escape Victoria and all the pieces will be one step closer to completing the puzzle.
With coronavirus restrictions easing across much of Australia, following the excellent work of authorities and the general public in flattening the infection rate curve, people are beginning to enjoy a return to a hint of normalcy. Family members are visiting each other, people are out in the sunshine, exercising and enjoying the fresh air. Still, it's a long road back, and the dangers of complacency are pretty obvious, with countries across the world suffering in much greater and seemingly endless numbers.
The question has been asked; why risk rushing rugby league back? The well-documented financial desperation of the NRL should not be reason enough to jeopardise the health and safety of the greater community.
Victorian Health Minister Jenny Mikakos certainly wasn't entertaining any exceptions that would allow the Melbourne Storm to resume full training, as her state maintains strict lockdown measures. The Storm instead will have to relocate to Albury, just across the New South Wales border or risk falling behind the other teams in their preparations.
With so many industries across the country being decimated by efforts to control the pandemic, why should rugby league be given any favours?
The simple answer is; why not? Why not allow an industry that employs thousands and entertains millions to return when they have obviously put in the hard yards to ensure the absolute minimum of risk? Is it 100 percent safe to send children back to school? Is it 100 percent safe to allow people to visit their families? Why have people been allowed to go to work and to the shops since the very start of this nightmare?
From the day Prime Minister Scott Morrison held his first media conference, announcing the list of infection-rate-controlling measures, he has been criticised for not doing enough. Some people were crying out for a complete shutdown of everything. Morrison, informed by a team of experts, knew that the economic collapse and associated social implications of a complete shutdown could be far more destructive than any virus. The Government implemented a measured and flexible response and the results have so far vindicated this approach.
The time has now come for restrictions to be partly relaxed and the NRL has said all along that its May 28 return depended on things improving from where they were when the game shut down. There are still three weeks remaining for the numbers to look even better. But, the most important part of the NRL's effort to return has been the enormous amount of work that has gone into establishing the set of biosecurity guidelines which should ensure the safety of all involved and the community at large.
"Our players will be safer being under our biosecurity measures [than] they would be if we left them in the normal community," ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys insisted.
"There's one in 1,000 chance [of getting COVID-19] in the normal community, one in 10,000 chance if they abide by our biosecurity measures. So we're actually protecting the community by having our players under our conditions."
The Government experts have examined the guidelines and have given the NRL the go ahead. Teams will be taken through the strict protocols today, before recommencing team training. It is not going to be easy for clubs and players with the restrictions and requirements are onerous, but they simply have to be.
Rugby league fans will rejoice at the return of the game they love, but no one will be forgiving if this goes pear-shaped and causes any harm to Australia's fight against the pandemic. The boffins have crunched the numbers and they have decided that the risk is small enough to allow another piece of normalcy to return to people's lives. Roll on May 28.