NRL playing a dangerous game of Coronavirus chicken
Rugby league has moved into dangerous territory by playing a glorified game of chicken with the coronavirus.
League officials are a bit like surfers refusing to leave the water because the giant tsunami they can see in the distance has not hit shore.
They have allowed round two of the NRL to proceed this week - for the moment - essentially because no player had tested positive to the virus.
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It's fine saying you are listening to experts in an attempt to minimise the threat of the virus but as we have learnt from basketball, golf, cricket, soccer, tennis, hockey and many other sports the best way to minimise it is to stop your competition.
There are 1.5 million people in NSW alone expected to get the virus. It's not a stiff arm you can just duck under.
We sympathise with league officials in this desperately difficult time but it still seemed incongruous to see government-approved crowds at NRL matches over the weekend as much of the civilised world moved into lockdown.
As was said on Sunday, one infected ball boy would be all it would take to shut down the NRL.
We get it. Rugby league is fighting for financial survival in the wake of the coronavirus.
But the NRL, in bullishly calling for a $200-$500 million handout from the government, must be aware than they are no more entitled to handouts than many other worthy causes.
Your local travel agent, restaurant owner, pub owner who is suddenly on the bones on his backside won't want to hear too many stories about $1 million a season players having to take a pay cut.
The NRL says it has no insurance cover for the coronavirus but some organisations are breathing more comfortably.
The Australian Turf Club has insurance cover if Saturday's Golden Slipper meeting is held without fans which means they are in a far safer position than rugby league clubs.
The captain's challenge always looked like one of those ideas dreamt up by someone in a new post (in this case Graham Annesley) trying to look as they were making a difference.
And that is how it looked after round one of the NRL when most people who used it made embarrassingly bad errors of judgment. The sooner it's binned the better.
THE FULL-ON BACK
Valentine Holmes got a solid pass mark for his debut at fullback for the Cowboys but if their attack stays so mundane he will have to learn to sniff out half chances in attack in a Billy Slater-James Tedesco sort of way. Simply rushing back clearing kicks won't be enough.
How do you repair the damage of one of most stupid rugby league acts of the decade?
You call in one of the smartest players in the game.
The supreme irony of Tevita Pangai's mindless tackle on Justin O'Neill which landed him a four week suspension is that he could be replaced by impressive youngster Ethan Bullemor.
A country boy from central Queensland, Bullemor was an OP1 student at Nudgee College and his turn of pace has been likened to David Fifita.
No matter what fate awaits the Gold Coast Titans this year their fans are assured one uplifting sight … Phillip Sami in full flight.
Samis scorching backline raids against the Raiders were a joy to behold as he managed 10 tackle breaks. He's Ipswich born and wants to play State of Origin for Queensland. Imagine the damage he could do in a hot backline.
The best thing David Fifita did in sorting out his future was to back his own ability and sign nothing.
Incredibly, Fifita is yet to sign a new deal for next year and his barnstorming try against the Cowboys must surely have lifted his price tag. So long as Fifita and Payne Haas stay fit the Broncos are capable of anything.
Andrew McCullough's first grade career has a question mark this season but Friday's win over the Cowboys showed the way forward.
The young Broncos forwards will burn brightly for most of the game but when cramp and fatigue sets in McCullough can come off the bench, tackling his heart out and organise the weary troops late in the game.
Hats off to the Warriors for agreeing to stay in Australia on the Gold Coast rather than return home to New Zealand.
The entire competition could have collapsed had they headed across the Tasman - as it may do if they head home next week after deciding to stay one week not two.
Former ASADA boss Richard Ings claims they should have headed home while they could.