It’s time for Bubble Ball! The NRL needs to get back on the Gladstone bandwagon.
It’s time for Bubble Ball! The NRL needs to get back on the Gladstone bandwagon.

Kent: NRL has no choice but to revive Gladstone plan

Two big reasons the NRL went into shutdown:

A cruise ship docked in Sydney Harbour and somewhere in the vicinity of 50 people carrying the coronavirus, sneezing and desperate to escape, got off the ship and spread to all parts of NSW.

About the same time the NRL's pandemic expert called Todd Greenberg with fears of a spike in cases and suddenly the sky clouded over and and the foul stench of sulphur filled the air and the game believed it had no choice but to shut down, as hell was coming.

 

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But, as ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys told Fox Sports on Monday: "None of what she said came true."

The expert's inability to hit the target shows how all of them, government and experts, are still guessing at the moment. Best practice is best practice, not certainty.

For one, the curve began to flatten, not spike, as the NRL's pandemic expert predicted.

What actually is certain is the cold reality that set in on Monday following the NRL's hook-up with the 16 clubs, which came less than a day after a negotiation with the players.

No footy, anymore, but massive pay cuts.

 

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter Vlandys. Picture: AAP
Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter Vlandys. Picture: AAP

Players are taking a 72 per cent hit to their salaries. The NRL has been kinder on themselves, taking a 25 per cent cut on future earnings.

Until then many players and some clubs were resistant to the NRL's plan to relocate every player to some remote Queensland town such as Gladstone.

The NRL needs to revisit the plan again.

With urgency.

Now that the mortgage is under stress a lot of re-thinking is being done in clubland.

Complaints from frustrated wives who needed their husbands home to do the babysitting have quieted.

None of the players are talking about the fear of contracting coronavirus. All of them are talking about their payouts and how they might see it through.

Similar conversations are being held around the world.

Leagues around the world are searching for ways to get their stars back in action. Picture: Getty
Leagues around the world are searching for ways to get their stars back in action. Picture: Getty

The English Premier League, leaking billions in salaries, is now contemplating sending all the players to the midlands to finish its season - and resume its rich broadcast deals.

The players would be housed in "World Cup-style" camps to safeguard against infection.

There is nothing different to what the NRL spoke of doing several weeks back but which later got shelved as other sports closed down around the NRL and a few alarmists began campaigning for the game to shut down.

After the initial shock of coronavirus, and a country shut down, England is slowly realising the benefits of isolating athletes and continuing with live sport for as long as possible.

The wider implications are beginning to be considered around the world.

US President Donald Trump watched his country begin to crumble and so promised to kickstart the economy again, saying "the cure is worse than the disease".

That is an extreme reaction, Trump in full Trump mode.

But already there are rumblings the suspended NBA season could re-start in May.

 

US President Donald Trump knows the value in reviving the economy. Picture: AP
US President Donald Trump knows the value in reviving the economy. Picture: AP

While the NRL is in a mood for change it might be prudent to revisit heading to Queensland.

Particularly if the curve, as they say, is beginning to flatten.

It would provide a jolt to the economy, a fact the English have recognised with the Premier League, and would also provide a huge social benefit as isolated families begin to struggle under the strict conditions imposed by government.

Given the dialogue among players, their approval would now appear certain as the realities set in.

The biggest problem the NRL appears to have are the club doctors, the majority of whom are against it.

It requires only a light scratching of the surface, though, to reveal their reluctance has as much to do with the doctors being reluctant to leave their currently thriving surgeries for 10-to-12 weeks as it does about the welfare of the players.

The NRL is in a swashbuckling frame of mind at the moment.

 

The entire competition could switch to Gladstone.
The entire competition could switch to Gladstone.

The coronavirus has pulled the Band-Aid off many of the problems the code has masked and there is an appetite from all the stakeholders to correct the problems.

It has to begin with a fan-first philosophy and the courage to consider alternative options.

The Diamondbacks play out of Arizona, a desert state. They play a summer sport, again, in a desert state.

So who asks fans to sit in the desert sun all day, for an entire summer?

So Diamondbacks president and chief executive Derrick Hall invented an acronym: Fawtsy.

It means Find A Way To Say Yes.

If the fans wanted air conditioning, he found a way to provide it. It's a "one fan at a time" philosophy.

Hall knew he could not rely on tried-and-true methods to get fans through the gate. The Diamondbacks had to be different.

It is small scale compared to what faces the NRL.

But the code's bold new era could begin with a determined plan, a promise to the fans, to revisit isolating teams and get the competition back running again to relieve the boredom of isolation.

As one coach said on Tuesday, in light of this week's new world: "They'll move to Gympie if you want them to."

Originally published as Kent: NRL has no choice but to revive Gladstone plan



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