NRL 2020: Six clubs stand down coaches, as coronavirus shutdown bites hard

Six NRL first-grade coaches have already been stood down by their clubs, as the Aussie rugby league competition braces for the financial impact of suspending the season, due to coronavirus.

At the same time, NRL chief executive Todd Greenburg has warned that the most vulnerable may be teams backed by associated leagues clubs, which have been closed to combat the spread of the disease.

Parramatta Eels coach Brad Arthur, Dean Pay (Canterbury Bulldogs), Paul Green (North Queensland), Adam O'Brien (Newcastle Knights), Ivan Cleary (Penrith Panthers) and John Morris (Cronulla Sharks) have all been put on annual leave by their clubs.

They are just some of hundreds of combined staff across each club and associated leagues establishments to be sent home.

Some have even been forced into lining up for Government handouts.

Warriors coach Stephen Kearney returned to Auckland with his players on Monday and remains on duty during his enforced isolation, while his wife and children are based in Brisbane.

Greenberg believes teams propped up by their respective leagues clubs will be the hardest hit by the crisis. That list includes some of the code's most storied franchises, led by Parramatta, Canterbury and Penrith.

Initial fears were that privately owned clubs like Manly and Gold Coast could suffer the most from the enforced suspension of the season.

But Greenberg had a different take on Fox League Mornings.

"I actually think the clubs with the licensed clubs attached to them, despite them being some of our biggest clubs, they're the most vulnerable," Greenberg said.

"[Manly and Gold Coast] have access to private ownership and so ultimately, if it gets really dire, private ownership has the ability to help in its own way.

"But some of those licensed clubs - the big ones I'm talking about, who've been big parts of rugby league since its inception through to the NSWRL - they're all in all sorts of financial stress now, because they're physically not open and can't trade."

On Thursday, Canberra became the latest club to stand down its administration staff, with only those who had leave up their sleeve still being paid.

The Raiders football department will work through until the end of next month, but chief executive Don Furner said they would then likely to be asked to go on leave.

Furner painted a grim picture of the Raiders' financial position, with the club closing the door on their new headquarters and all seven of their venues shut indefinitely.

"I've never hidden the fact our business is underpinned by the licensed clubs, of which we have seven," Furner said. "But they are all closed down and they are expected to be closed down for six months.

"Our revenue depends on games being played, broadcasting revenue, gate, sponsorship, merchandise sales and leagues club support.

"None of that is there at the moment."

The Panthers alone own five licensed clubs and are bracing for a reported AU$40 million loss, brought on by the shutdown of each of their premises.

Four-hundred staff at Canterbury Leagues Club are also believed to have been stood down.

"They've had to lay off - on top of their football clubs stuff - hundreds and hundreds of staff that work in their leagues clubs," Greenberg said. "I have great concerns about how quickly we can get that back open.

"And none of us know the answer, because ultimately, we're in the hands of the Government and a much broader global crisis we're about to face in our country."

St George Illawarra is part-privately owned and is yet to lay off staff, while Wests Tigers have also been unmoved, given a lesser reliance on Ashfield Leagues.

Despite the dire circumstances, Greenberg said the governing body remained determined to ensure all 16 clubs would survive the death knell.

Talks with the players union continue over the prospect of pay cuts and are expected to be resolved on Friday.

"Our goal is to make sure all 16 come out the other end, so it's not going to be easy and there's a lot of hard decisions being made," Greenberg said.