May Day: NRL confirms shock new relaunch date
Roosters coach Trent Robinson will head into Thursday's innovation meeting armed with a two-pronged competition model as the NRL prepares to axe the Sydney self-isolation plan ahead of a late May kick-off.
News Corp Australia can reveal the NRL's innovation committee is considering scrapping the Sydney 'Bubble' idea with pandemic experts confident NRL stars can remain at home without a 14-day lockdown at Homebush.
That is a sign the NRL is increasingly confident the Telstra Premiership will resume on either May 21 or 28 in a stunning fightback amid the coronavirus ordeal.
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The NRL's innovation committee had set a target date of July 1 as part of its Project Apollo objectives - but ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is ready to launch earlier.
It can be revealed Robinson will table two structural competition options at Thursday's innovation committee meeting after holding a phone hook-up with the code's 16 coaches on Tuesday.
The coaches discussed a 15-round competition draw or splitting the NRL into two conferences.
Robinson canvassed the opinion of all coaches and will suggest those two models to the innovation team, which is understood to be leaning towards shelving the conference plan to ensure every team plays each other once.
State of Origin remains on the agenda and is likely to be played around July or August in front of empty stadiums.
V'landys said it is possible the NRL could resume on May 21 but is more bullish about a re-launch the following week.
"I am optimistic (the season could be back playing on May 21)," V'landys said.
"The committee is considering that (on Thursday) and I don't want to pre-empt any of their recommendations, but that (May 21) is a possibility, yes.
"The most important thing for me is restarting the season.
"We want to get everyone's spirits back up.
"You have to inspire people.
"I appreciate there is going to be no crowds but having rugby league back on the TV will just bring back a little bit of normality."
It was widely believed the NRL would order the code's 480 players into a 14-day self-isolation program in western Sydney. The committee will debate the merits of a 'Bubble' but the NRL's medical experts are increasingly content for players to remain in lockdown at home with their families.
As revealed by News Corp Australia, the Warriors will receive New Zealand and Australian government exemptions to allow them to enter a fortnight's self-isolation in Sydney.
Innovation committee chairman Wayne Pearce said the panel would consider a coronavirus Plan B safety-net with the competition draw in the event a player comes down with COVID-19.
"I'd be disappointed if we couldn't get it back up and running before then (July 1)," he said.
"We could run the competition right up until Christmas time and we have to build some bandwidth in the season if there is a biosecurity breach and a player gets the virus.
"There has to be contingencies for how we keep the integrity of the competition intact. There's a few things we have to factor in."
Originally published as May Day: NRL confirms shock new relaunch date