Tomorrow night’s NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and Sydney Roosters will go ahead as planned with no ban on supporters attending the highly anticipated clash.
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to escalate, the Federal and State Governments this afternoon advised that non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled.
But that advice does not come into force until Monday.
It had earlier been feared that the NRL match at Panthers Stadium would be played in front of an empty grandstand, with other games potentially impacted as soon as tonight.
But NRL CEO Todd Greenberg has confirmed the rest of Round 1 will proceed as planned.
However, round 2 matches next weekend will be played in front of empty stadiums with supporters unable to attend.
Penrith coach Ivan Cleary said it would be strange to play in front of an empty stadium if that eventuates, but the team would be prepared.
“It’s not something you’d expect, but in one way we train like that every day. If that’s the case then that’s how it’s got to be,” he said.
“Most people aren’t shaking hands anymore. It’s just been an hour by hour situation over the last few days. As each day passes you find out a little bit more (information).
“We can only do what we can do and that’s play footy. As long as that game is still on we will be preparing for it. That’s all we can focus on.”
Next week’s Penrith CBD Festival is likely to be cancelled due to the new government restrictions, while the Royal Easter Show has been cancelled for the first time since the second World War.
The A-League derby between Western Sydney and Sydney FC may also be played without fans at Bankwest Stadium next Saturday night. There is no official word from the A-League yet on how they plan to play out the remainder of the season.
The AFL is also considering their options ahead of the season starting next weekend.
The Wiggles have already postponed the rest of their national tour, including shows planned for Penrith next week.
OZWAC has already announced the cancellation of its charity ball, originally scheduled to be held in Penrith in May.
Performances at The Joan may also be under review with the Concert Hall holding more than 500 people.
Tomorrow’s race meeting at Rosehill Gardens will proceed and be open to all spectators.
“The Australian Turf Club’s first priority remains the safety and health of all attendees and staff,” the Australian Turf Club said in a statement.
“Additional hygiene measures will be implemented at Rosehill Gardens tomorrow for the health and wellbeing of all on course.
“Please see attached protocols and full further details of enhanced hygiene measures being implemented effective immediately.”
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.