“I don’t think they are a law unto themselves,” Kelly said. “Some of the players and coaches may think so, but they’re part of society and they have a part – as we have all done – to support not only safety for themselves but for all of us.
“For them [the players], it may not be a big problem. There are other people around the teams – Wayne Bennett is in his 70s, he would be in a vulnerable group; Ricky Stuart with the mighty Raiders, he would potentially be in a vulnerable group. So thinking about the team, not just the players but the support around them, is important.
“They’re making their plans for the road out [of the suspension of sport] and I encourage them to do so in other sports. But whether May is the time will remain to be seen and definitely they’ll need to get some permission to do that.”
V’landys is adamant they already have it and rang Hazzard on Friday to remind him that state public health orders signed last week did not prevent sporting events like NRL matches taking place. He also told the Herald the game also had gained written authority to resume from the NSW State Emergency Operations Centre.
In reality we could do it tomorrow if we wanted to, but we’re not going to because we’re going to let the infection rate continue its stabilisation.
“We’re exempted in the health order … and also we’ve been working with the relevant authorities and we’ve got it in writing,” V’landys said.
“In reality we could do it tomorrow if we wanted to, but we’re not going to because we’re going to let the infection rate continue its stabilisation.
“What we have juggled is to make sure we are no threat to the community’s health by spreading the virus. But I can’t see how we spread the virus if the players who are going there are all negative and playing each other in a sterile situation when we know they’re all negative.
“We’ve got to go back to some sort of normality at some point in time. We just can’t be like this for the rest of our lives. And we would not do it if the risk wasn’t so low. We were playing and were allowed to play at 23 per cent infection rate. It’s down to 1.48 per cent. You should be able to get back.”
Asked whether he would be open to discussing a revamp of how the code is administered as sought by Nine, V’landys replied: “My discussions with the broadcaster are always confidential”.
“As a game we wanted to set a time when we had some certainty, and now we will certainly engage and get the support of our partners. That’s the process,” he said.
There is an urgency to next week’s talks with Nine for clubs and players because what the broadcaster agrees to pay will help determine what is distributed to them.
“Obviously they are a major partner in the game considering they provide a significant amount of revenue and have done for quite some time,” Rugby League Players Association chief executive Clint Newton said.
“At risk of getting some splinters in my backside, that’s something Peter and the commission and the exec team need to work through with Hugh and Channel Nine.
“What I do know is that the players are committed to providing for those broadcasters and are prepared to go to significant lengths to do that for them because they are such a significant player.”
Chris Barrett is Sports Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.