SYDNEY, May 2 (Reuters) – Australia’s National Rugby League cleared another key step in the plan to resume their 2020 season before the end of the month on Saturday when the New Zealand Warriors team was given permission to enter the country.
The Warriors have been given the green light by Australia’s Border Force to fly to the regional city of Tamworth on Sunday and start training while undergoing 14 days of quarantine.
“This is an excellent outcome for rugby league and another step towards the competition resuming on May 28,” NRL chairman Peter V’landys said in a statement.
“The club will follow the strictest biosecurity protocols and, like all clubs, will participate in an education day about the protocols on Monday morning.”
The NRL season was stopped in March after two rounds because of the coronavirus pandemic but national and state governments are now starting to relax the restrictions put in place to control the outbreak.
Plans to resume the season had already been given a boost on Friday when Queensland’s government said teams would be allowed to cross state borders for matches even if travel restrictions for the broader public had not been relaxed.
Australia has reported about 6,700 cases of COVID-19 and 93 deaths, while New Zealand has reported 1,134 cases with 20 fatalities.
The NRL, which had warned of “catastrophic” financial consequences for the sport if they were unable to resume the season, plans to play 18 further rounds before the playoffs.
The matches will be played behind closed doors, initially at least.
Government guidelines released by the Australian Institute of Sport on Friday said elite sports should recommence “in a spectator-free environment” for the forseeable future due to the “risks associated with large gatherings”. (Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Michael Perry)