SYDNEY, April 28 (Reuters) - Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), which was interrupted after two rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will resume as a 20-round competition on May 28, league commission chairman Peter V’Landys said on Tuesday.
V’Landys, head of the independent board that oversees the game, made the announcement after “extensive consultation” with broadcast partners, clubs, and key stakeholders.
The grand final of the most popular winter sport in Australia’s eastern coastal states will be played on Oct. 25 and the competition draw will be determined in the next two weeks.
The two rounds of matches already played will be counted and the competition ladder remains in place when the games resume.
“Today is a landmark day for rugby league in 2020. This is a great outcome for our players, fans, partners and stakeholders,” V’Landys said in a statement, thanking the CEOs of broadcasters Nine and Foxtel for their backing.
“I’m extremely appreciative for the cooperation and support from Hugh Marks and Patrick Delany. Both have always acted in good spirit and have demonstrated how partners work together.”
Training will recommence for clubs on May 4 amid stringent biosecurity measures and V’Landys said it was safer to play now than when they did in the second round of action.
“The daily infection rate in NSW was 25.79% when the last game was played. It has been now less than 1% in NSW for the last 18 days and is continuing to drop,” he added.
“There’s also been a significant improvement in the recovery rate, being 75% in NSW and 83% in Australia. Our players will be safer under our protocols than they would be as regular members of the community.”
Australian states are starting to relax restrictions as the local rate of new infections slows. The country has recorded 84 deaths associated with the virus. (Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)