'No excuse': Caroline Willson blasts NRL over virus 'scaremongering'

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

AFL journo Caroline Wilson has called out Australian Rugby League boss Peter V’landys for “scaremongering” tactics by asking the government for assistance to battle their coronavirus dilemma.

On Sunday the NRL confirmed it would forge ahead with the competition in round two in the interest of keeping the game alive financially, despite the growing pandemic which has forced the shut down of other major sports.

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But without insurance or assets to produce income outside of the games themselves, ARLC chairman V'landys said the NRL would not take long to collapse if the season was suspended without financial assistance from the government.

Wilson has now fired back at V’landys, taking exception to his plea to the government.

“Peter, that was scaremongering at its absolute worst,” Wilson said on Monday night.

Caroline Wilson has called out Peter V'landys. Image: NIne/Getty

“I know the NRL clubs don’t have the membership support enjoyed by the AFL but that was no excuse.

“At a time when people are falling ill, potentially dying, businesses are going under and people are losing their jobs, to open the conversation by demanding public money demonstrated a lack of grace.

“Your behaviour reminded me of those selfish panic merchants who have stripped supermarket shelves and have highlighted the worst of Australia’s response to this terrifying plague.

“He opened the conversation by demanding public money at a time when … Australians are terrified of the financial results that are going to occur to them. He made (AFL CEO) Gillon McLachlan look like a towering leader.”

NRL ‘in big trouble’ if season suspended

Already the NRL has dipped into its 'distress fund' to the tune of $6.8 million, allocating $425,000 to each of the 16 clubs to assist with the financial pressure of closing games to fans from round two.

However, this is a meagre sum compared to the losses clubs are faced with from next weekend.

There were also suggestions the NRL could lower the competition's salary cap, effectively cutting the wage of players as part of the collective bargaining agreement with the Rugby League Players Association.

The NRL will meet with Brendan Murphy, chief medical officer of NSW, on Tuesday, to ask for special consideration and availability of testing for players to keep the season alive.

They will also rely on a report from newly appointed biosecurity and pandemic specialists to decide how to navigate the complex situation of playing games in round two and beyond.

The NRL admitted all options are on the table, including isolating players and staff and suspending the season entirely.

“If it's a total closure, we haven't got long at all,” V'landys said.

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys speak to the media. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

“If it's one where we can continue to play the game with no spectators, that gives us a much greater flexibility to survive.

“It really depends on what we're faced with. If one player or ball boy catches the disease and we have to suspend the season, that's another scenario.

“I spent hours yesterday looking at all our accounts and all I could see was the word 'catastrophe' if this continues.”

While refusing to reveal specific contract details of its $2 billion deal with broadcasters, V'landys said Fox Sports and Channel Nine have not put pressure on the NRL to continue playing.

However, he admitted the broadcasters will not need to pay if games are cancelled.

“I can't stress enough our game has never faced a challenge like this,” V'landys said.

“The longer it takes, the more pressure on our financial viability.

“It could have catastrophic effects on us going forward.

“Our money will only last so long and once its extinguished we are in big trouble.”

with AAP