NRL 2020: Australian Rugby League Commission set to sign off on May return

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) is expected to  sign off on the return of the NRL competition from as early as May 21, according to reports.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports the ARLC will give the all-clear to resume the competition, despite the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. 

A 15-round season centralised in Sydney is the NRL's likely option. A two-conference system that would split the competition in half was also discussed, but reportedly met with player resistance.

The competition would include NZ Warriors, who have reportedly been granted an exemption from the Australian and NZ Governments to travel across the Tasman. The Warriors must still enter another two-week isolation, but can train as a team. 

If the preferred 15-round draw proceeds, the Warriors would play the 13 teams they haven't faced already this year. Before the season was stopped, they lost 20-0 to Newcastle Knights and 20-6 to Canberra Raiders.

The report adds that border restrictions would see the Warriors, North Queensland Cowboys, Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Titans and Melbourne Storm move to Sydney for at least two weeks, potentially at Olympic Park.

But if the competition is split, the Warriors would face the Broncos, St George Illawarra Dragons, Titans, Cowboys, Storm, Knights and Raiders twice. 

ARLC chairman Peter V'Landys told Australia's Channel Nine a reduction in infection rates since the league stopped playing meant that a bubble was no longer necessary, with Sydney-based players likely to be allowed to live in their own homes. 

Todd Greenberg and Peter V'landys.
Todd Greenberg and Peter V'landys. Photo credit: Getty

If the NRL succeeds in its plan for a May return, the Grand Final would be played in its traditional time slot - the first Sunday in October.

New South Wales Deputy Premier John Barilaro claimed rugby league could "start the process of recovery" for the nation.

Last month, V'landys stressed the importance of the NRL continuing or it would face massive financial woes. 

"I can't stress enough, our game has never faced a challenge like this," V'landys said. "The longer it takes, the more pressure on our financial viability. 

"It could have catastrophic effects on us going forward. Our money will only last so long and once it's extinguished, we are in big trouble.

"An Australia without rugby league is not Australia. Rugby league has been a fabric of our society for hundreds of years.

"It is people's escape, it is people's relaxation and we have to do everything we can to continue the tradition of rugby league."