They valiantly fought on, but in the end the NRL has been left with no choice but to suspend the 2020 season after two rounds.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys confirmed tonight that the competition was being placed on immediate hiatus.
The NRL took advice from health experts, who said it was no longer safe for the players to continue the season.
“We aren’t going to put a time period to the suspension. We are going to look at every available option to us,” V’landys said.
“We thank the players for all their support to date and we also thank the fans. This decision hasn’t been taken lightly.”
Some tried to frame the NRL’s fight for survival as selfish or tone deaf. It wasn’t a fight to save the pay packets of ‘selfish’ players. The game employees thousands of people, all tax payers, who deserved to have someone fight for their jobs #NRL
— Fatima Kdouh (@FatimaKdouh_) March 23, 2020
Greenberg said all clubs and players were briefed on the decision.
“Tonight our situation has changed dramatically. We have made the unprecedented decision to suspend the 2020 season. It is indeed a very sad day but one of the most responsible days in our game’s history,” he said.
“Today is a difficult day for the rugby league community here at head office and across all of our clubs and players.”
The NRL has closed its offices until May 1 with all staff asked to take annual leave.
“While I say it’s a tough day for the game, we know it’s a tough time for everyone across our community,” Greenberg said.
“All we can do as a sport and as a community is remain united and follow the expert advice to keep ourselves and all of our families safe.”
ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg address the media. https://t.co/5h8FRYZB4L
— NRL (@NRL) March 23, 2020
The NRL played Round 2 matches over the weekend with no crowds, and was prepared to do so for as long as it took. But new restrictions, including Queensland closing its borders, made it impossible for the season to continue.
The decision will throw the NRL into financial oblivion, and will put immense pressure on many of the competition’s 16 clubs.
“It’s catastrophic. I don’t think we have ever come across a financial crisis like this,” V’landys said.
“This is a financial crisis. You can’t understate it. It’s probably the biggest financial challenge the game will face in its history.”
Greenberg said he was hopeful the 2020 season would resume at some stage, with all options on the table.
The NRL will meet with broadcasters Fox League and Channel Nine in the coming days.
Penrith Panthers veteran Josh Mansour said he was devastated by the season’s shutdown.
“Shattered it’s come to this. Tough times, not only for rugby league but for everyone,” he said on Twitter.
“We’re all in this fight together and we’ll get through it – look after one another and stay healthy.”
I understand why this is happening but I’m still so incredibly sad. 💔
— Maria Tsialis (@mtsialis) March 23, 2020
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.