Grant Chapman: Aussies keep torch burning for live sport in age of coronavirus

OPINION: Kiwis love to give our trans-Tasman cousins grief at any and every opportunity, but right now, they're keeping our passion for sport alive with their 'Aussie battler' mentality.

As coronavirus closes down major sporting leagues and events across the globe - and here at home - the rare ray of hope emanates from across the ditch, where the NRL, AFL and A-League forge on defiantly.

Australia is lucky to have three major domestic leagues that can run reasonably self-sufficiently, with the exception of our own Warriors and Phoenix, who have received an adapt-or-die ultimatum.

Those competitions have had to take a hard-line pragmatic approach, knowing a long-term shutdown could have permanent repercussions on their codes beyond the initial crisis.

All have had to sacrifice gate-takings and fan engagement to fulfill lucrative TV contracts at a time when broadcast outlets are desperately watching their live content dry up by the minute.

Losing those massive payouts would cripple those sports for years to come and Aussie administrators simply aren't prepared to go down without a fight.

Also, the three codes are locked in mortal combat with each other for a share of the sporting market and would be reluctant to concede any ground to their rivals by closing down. 

Some may call their actions irresponsible, exposing players and staff to close-quarters interaction, while the rest of the world tries to put as much distance between ourselves as possible.

Ultimately, the first positive COVID-19 test among players from any of these leagues will likely close that programme down - and possibly all of them.

But in the meantime, let's celebrate their courage and hope they can ride out this storm, if for no other reason than to give all of us hope at a time when there doesn't seem much around.

Good on ya, cobbers! Rather you than us.

Of course, persevering with the NRL schedule just feels like cruel and unusual punishment for Warriors diehards, who would now face a month in quarantine to attend a 'home' game on the Gold Coast.

Maybe this period of withdrawal will teach us not to take afternoons at Mt Smart for granted.

But after their forlorn display against Newcastle last week, coronavirus cancellation would seem more like a blessing in disguise.

On the other hand, the Phoenix are legitimate challengers for the A-League crown, and should merely embrace their relocation, crowded schedule and empty stadiums as further hurdles to overcome in their season of destiny.

On this side of the Tasman, netball has become the last code to scrap its national league, sensibly forsaking its grip on bragging rights over its rivals.  

If you're looking for a silver lining amid this chaos, the advent of coronavirus seems like an massive opportunity to reset and correct some of society's previous faults, including in sports.

With international travel restrictions closing down Super Rugby, the national game may be forced to revert back to what really makes the competition so appealing for Kiwi fans - local derbies.

Maybe that's the real future of the competition... but it would have taken a pandemic to achieve it.

Grant Chapman is Newshub online sports editor. Join us at 5pm Saturday for live updates of the Warriors v Raiders NRL clash.