Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
In 2021 the National Rugby League was rocked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
From round 18 onwards the entire competition was moved to Queensland after Sydney and its surrounding areas went back into lockdown as a result of the rising number of cases.
This move would cost the NRL millions of dollars, with the game’s premier event the NRL Grand Final taking place outside of Sydney for the first time in history as the Penrith Panthers defeated the South Sydney Rabbitohs 14-12 at Suncorp Stadium to win their third premiership.
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys has been a key component in the competition remaining alive over the past 24 months despite COVID disruptions and has assured the Rugby League world that protocols have been put in place to avoid the 2022 NRL season being impacted by the pandemic.
— NRL (@NRL) January 6, 2022
“We believe we have the systems in place to avoid disruption and we’re lucky in a sense that it’s happening now and we’re learning from the experience,” V’landys told stand-in host Mark Levy on The Ray Hadley Morning Show.
“I believe in our system and we’ve already got 30,000 antigen tests, and it will work and minimise the disruption.
“It won’t be a hard bubble this year, it will be what we call a soft bubble. The players will be able to go to places but they must use common sense.
“They can’t go to pubs or nightclubs that are full of people but they can go to restaurants that are outdoor dining so their lives won’t be as disrupted as they have been the last two years because we are confident that if one player does catch it we will catch it early with the rapid antigen tests and that way they won’t infect any of the other players.”
V’landys’ optimism has not been shared by all in the NRL community, as Channel Nine’s The Mole has spoken to a coach from a Western Sydney based club who believes the pandemic will cause further disruptions to clubs in 2022.
“We have been talking among a few of the coaches and medical staffs and we reckon we will have to be without three to six players most weekends if the current trend continues,” one leading coach told Wide World of Sports.
“It’s going to really put a strain on all clubs but this is the new world we are living in.”
How the 2022 NRL season will play out is almost impossible to predict based on the past two years and the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia, but we can all at least hope that it will play out with no interruptions.