Change to COVID rule not so easy for NRL

·3-min read

Possible cuts to government-mandated COVID-19 isolation periods won't stop NRL players from needing to satisfy three criteria in order to return to play.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has flagged that COVID-19 guidelines will be discussed with state leaders when national cabinet meets on Wednesday, leading to speculation the standard isolation period could be reduced from seven days to five.

"We're looking as well in the longer term about what the nature of restrictions are," Mr Albanese told reporters.

"Over a period of time, they have been reduced. And it is important that decisions are made which are right for the times."

NSW premier Dominic Perrottet is especially keen on reducing the isolation period, pointing to the likelihood of future outbreaks in the years to come.

"Dominic Perrottet's position has been very clear," Mr Albanese said.

Changes this week would prove timely for the NRL, given no formal biosecurity bubbles have been announced for the finals series, which begins next weekend.

The NRL is set to begin reviewing its COVID-19 guidelines if any changes are announced by Mr Albanese following Wednesday's meeting.

But even if the NRL implements a five-day isolation period, head of football Graham Annesley said the return of any player who tested positive would hinge on their ability to meet three criteria.

"Any player who has tested positive to COVID-19 has to return a negative test, they have to be showing no symptoms and they've got to get the approval of their club doctor," Annesley told reporters.

"They are the three most critical factors for us."

South Sydney are poised to be the first beneficiaries of possible amendments to COVID-19 rules.

Hooker Damien Cook tested positive on Saturday so had been set to miss Friday's blockbuster against the Sydney Roosters but could be rushed back in if the isolation period is cut to five days.

While the NRL has so far followed government guidelines in developing its own COVID-19 policies, any alterations would need to be approved by league officials ahead of the first round 25 game on Thursday night.

A Rabbitohs fan, Mr Albanese said he was not worried if Cook's release was delayed.

"I encourage the Souths coach to make sure they keep the eye on the finals, which are what really matter," he said.

Roosters captain James Tedesco said he supported cuts to the isolation period, adding that his side would not be fazed if Cook was released from isolation earlier than originally expected.

"Big players have missed big games from the (seven-day isolation) rule," he said.

"Especially if it's the second time (contracting the virus), guys aren't really going to get too sick from it, so I feel like they shouldn't miss a week if they're not sick enough.

"(But) it doesn't matter what team it is or who's playing. We've got to focus on ourselves and getting better."