Coronavirus: High-profile 'Aussie Rules' supporters slam NRL for continuing to play

  • 23/03/2020

The show must go on according to the NRL, but former players and pundits from a rival code are questioning the decision to continue.

As Australia contemplates a complete nationwide shutdown to combat the spread of COVID-19, rugby league is still full steam ahead.

On Sunday, Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'Landys told Nine News that the plan was to forge ahead with the season.

V'Landys believes the NRL can still comply with recommendations and restrictions enforced by the Government and health authorities.

The NZ Warriors are currently based at Kingscliff, New South Wales, and playing 'home' games at Gold Coast's CBus Stadium.

The South Australian Federal Government closed its borders on Sunday and other states are expected to follow suit in the coming days. With two AFL teams based in South Australia, the competition opted to shut up shop for 60 days, when it will reevaluate the situation.

Comedian Dave Hughes, a high-profile 'Aussie Rules' fan, has been quick to condemn the NRL for its decision to play on and questioned why the Government hasn't already shut the league down. 

Dave Hughes - comedian and huge AFL fan
Dave Hughes - comedian and huge AFL fan Photo credit: Image - Instagram/Dave Hughes

Reacting to a tweet from the official NRL account that said the season "will proceed until there is advice from the government to shut down matches", Hughes called on the Australian Prime Minister to hit the kill switch on the competition, given the current rapid spread of coronavirus.

"So the same @ScottMorrisonMP led team who just yelled at people for going to Bondi Beach, as they are endangering us all by not social distancing, are still happy for @NRL guys to fly around the nation wrestling each other, while they possibly catch and spread coronavirus?" Hughes tweeted.

The bewilderment at the call to keep the game running was a sentiment shared by many.

Channel 9 sports reporter and Sunday Footy Show (AFL) host Tony Jones was staggered by the NRL’s decision to play on.

"What the hell is going on with the NRL?” Jones said on Today. "Why is the NRL being one out at the moment?

"We sit here in Melbourne and shake our head in amazement. The Peter V’landys of this world surely need to get a grip on reality.

"I'm sorry to my bosses. I know we’re a broadcast partner of the NRL, but if that’s not shut down by the end of the week, I don’t know what’s going on with the world.

"Wayne Bennett, who’s supporting Peter V’landys, needs to check the calendar. There’s nothing going on, apart from a bit of soccer."

Former Australian basketballer and two-time Olympian Mark Worthington blasted the NRL for being "arrogant".

"Incredibly shortsighted, incredibly selfish, incredibly arrogant," Worthington tweeted.

"Why is the NRL different to the rest of the world? 'Players health is paramount'. I call BS."