NRL players, clubs, and legends react to 2020 season suspension due to coronavirus pandemic

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The NRL world has reacted with shock and sorrow at the announcement today to suspend the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Rugby league great Billy Slater spoke shortly after ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg addressed media on Monday night to confirm this year’s national rugby league competition would be halted.

“It’s the correct decision. This is bigger than the game. We need to move with society. Everyone else is getting shut down and we can’t be travelling with our players interstate and playing games of rugby league when borders are closed,” Slater told Wide World of Sports’ radio show.

“It has been inevitable but it still leaves you with a flat feeling inside.

“I can’t remember rugby league being called off ever.

“Being a member of society it’s concerning for mainly our older generation. We’ve all got grandparents and fathers and mothers and small children. It’s going to affect everyone whether it’s you directly or not.

“It’s tough times all around.”

V’Landys explains dire NRL future

Slater expressed serious concern about how the suspended rugby league season, and more broadly the future uncertainty for the nation’s economy, would affect the NRL.

“The financial ramifications are where it’s going to hit the game the most. We can put up with not having rugby league for a month or two or however long, but what it’s going to do financially to the game, it’s going to hurt everyone,” Slater said.

“There’s so many people who rely on this game for a living.”

The NRL was one of the last sporting leagues around the globe to still be running after COVID-19 prompted almost every other competition in the world to be suspended or cancelled in recent weeks.

Despite numerous moves from the ARLC, NRL and Rugby League Players’ Association to try and keep the season alive, the announcement from Queensland’s government on the imminent closure of state borders was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

“The movement to central Queensland was certainly an option,” Slater said of the NRL’s possible relocation to Gladstone, an idea which was floated prior to the season being suspended.

“If the NRL were pro-active about that and moved everyone last week, we could still be playing games for a period of time. But I think it was inevitable that everything would be shut down and you imagine all of our players being stuck up there in Queensland away from their families.

“I couldn’t imagine being away from my family at this time, so the New Zealand Warriors need a huge pat on the back. They get an opportunity to go home tomorrow which is fantastic to be with their families.”

Coronavirus: NRL season suspended

Greenberg confirmed that pay cuts were inevitable for players and staff in the NRL as a result of today’s announcement.

As the news broke, some players took to social media to share their disappointment.

“Shattered it’s come to this. Tough times, not only for rugby league but for everyone,” Panthers star Josh Mansour tweeted.

“We’re all in this fight together and we’ll get through it – look after one another and stay healthy.”

Cronulla’s Chad Townsend was left speechless, before rallying NRL supporters to keep the faith that they would rebound from this setback.

Gold Coast Titans player Nathan Peats called the decision “pretty devastating” and his teammate Dale Copley said it was a “horrible day” for the game.

Manly’s Joel Thompson was positive the league would rebuild, as was St George Illawarra’s Tariq Sims.

“The NRL season suspended..That hurts but like most tough times in life, we will come through it,” Thompson tweeted.

“Be safe and check in with loved ones! Stick to the rules and we will work this out together,” Sims said.

Wests Tigers gave a heartfelt mention to all NRL teams on social media to try and unite the rugby league community during this difficult time.

Other clubs followed with their own messages for fans and members.

The Canberra Raiders released a longer statement in reaction to the NRL’s decision, wanting to “assure members and fans of the club that the Raiders will be doing everything they can to make sure they are ready to go once the competition resumes.”

“We will be working through the implications of this decision over the coming days, but I can assure all of our members and fans that we will be doing all we can to ensure the future of our club,” Raiders CEO Don Furner said.

“We want to thank all of our Raiders family for their messages of support during this period.”

“Rugby league has bounced back from many challenges before and I know the united approach from the clubs and game will see the game return when we can,” Raiders coach Ricky Stuart added.

“This is a hard time for not only rugby league but all of society and we want to wish all of our members and fans the best during this tough time and we will see you on the other side.”

V’landys said the NRL and ARLC’s decision today also came so suddenly because of the difficult position the New Zealand Warriors were in, being based in Queensland after Kiwi Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern implemented a compulsory 14-day isolation for all arrivals across the ditch.

The Warriors had committed to relocating to the Gold Coast to try and keep the competition going as scheduled, however the latest move by the Queensland government put them at risk of being stuck in the Sunshine State indefinitely.

On Monday night the Warriors said their priority was to “bring the players and staff back home safely.”

“We’re truly grateful for the encouragement, patience and support shown by members, fans and sponsors during this time. We’ll be back,” the club tweeted.

“In the meantime please adhere to the government’s instructions, keep you and your family safe and show a bit of aroha. We can do this together.”

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