Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys to explore rapid COVID-19 blood testing on players


Any medic who has a private practice and also works as a club doctor is set to be banned from carrying out NRL functions as head office implements strict health and safety measures as part of its biosecurity framework.

The blood testing was only last week unveiled at Dubai international airport and has been used to assess travellers before they fly to countries which require coronavirus testing certificates.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys wants to explore whether rapid blood testing can be used on NRL players.Credit:Rhett Whyman/Sydney Morning Herald

V’landys has asked for more information on whether or not it would be feasible to use the tests on NRL players, who could be back training in a fortnight before the proposed May 28 season resumption.

The testing regime could be added to Project Apollo’s biosecurity proposal which is due to be completed early this week and tabled with the Rugby League Players Association, clubs and health authorities.

The NRL is considering employing the weekly COVID-19 blanket testing on up to 480 players in an effort to avoid an outbreak.

It’s the latest twist in the NRL’s constantly evolving biosecurity paper, which has been guided by one of the country’s leading biochemical and weapons experts and will underpin the game’s return.

While V’landys will have more talks with broadcasters Nine, the publisher of this masthead, and Foxtel over the competition’s format and its broadcast value this week, Project Apollo is nearing a proposal on the training and playing environments to be followed during the global pandemic.

On the prospect of adding the blood-testing to its armoury, V’landys said: “We’re investigating that ourselves. Each week we could test the players.

“We want to know more about that test and we’ve still got some biosecurity measures such as testing their temperature three times a day, like we do with the jockeys [on racecourses].

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“The risk [of contracting COVID-19] is a lot less now than what it was when we stopped the competition. No player has tested positive to coronavirus. People are saying it’s a contact sport, it is. But if you do everything in your power to keep them all negative then it’s negative against negative. And tests are going to become a lot more available.”

The NRL is pushing to be the first major code in Australia to resume its season despite caution from various federal and state government officials.

Horse racing has continued under strict protocols, allowing the Sydney autumn carnival to run as per schedule, closing with the All Aged Stakes meeting at Randwick on Saturday.

While the majority of NRL clubs employ full-time doctors, those that don’t will be forced to contract specialist medicos with the game unapologetically set to ask those with their own private practices to stay away from players and officials.

“Any person that may come into contact with a coronavirus patient won’t be allowed on the training ground or on the playing fields,” V’landys said.

“One of the groups we’ve identified is doctors because a lot of them have GP practices. Naturally we don’t want them near the players because they’re regarded as high risk. That is the sort of level we’re going to to identify the risk so there is no risk.

“The chances of players catching it are getting slimmer and slimmer by the day, but let’s make it 1000-1 instead of 500-1.”

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