'Treating them like greyhounds': Gus Gould warns NRL over isolation plan

Phil Gould has warned the NRL not to lock the players up like 'greyhounds' if the season is to be resumed. (Getty Images)

Rugby league guru Phil Gould has warned players shouldn't be kept "like greyhounds" in bubbles for an extended period as the NRL looks at ways to restart the season as quickly as possible.

Cameron Smith already hit out at reports the NRL are considering keeping players in isolation to restart the competition.

Now, concerned with the wellbeing of players who may need to be isolated away from families to play a conference-based competition, Gould said any plan to get rugby league back would need to be tempered by the potential impact it could have on players.

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"Facilities aren't the problem, it's what is going to be cost effective but also keep the players healthy and looking after their mental health and welfare, and not treating them like greyhounds where we lock them in a kennel every week and then we bring them out on weekends," Gould said on his podcast, Six Tackles with Gus.

Gould's comments come ahead of Thursday's Project Apollo meeting where the NRL's innovation committee will decide on competition formats to present to the Australian Rugby League Commission for approval.

Initially it was believed rugby league would not be able to return before September - the latest possible date for a season to start - but now the NRL is pushing to get back on the field as early as late May.

A plan to do that safely is the task of Project Apollo, which will consider numerous options in Thursday's meeting, including separating the games into conferences in NSW and Queensland, when to play State of Origin and the possibility of a three-game grand final series.

Competition based in Sydney: Gould

Gould said maintaining the integrity of the competition will be a juggling act, but possible if the competition allows for a top eight, a full finals series and an eventual premier.

He said basing the competition in Sydney would be most logical.

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"Looking at the scenarios that they've thrown up ... the one that makes the most sense to me is to have them based here in Sydney," he said.

"Simply because there are nine teams living in Sydney. Those teams could return to their homes.

"We don't have to completely isolate them in motels and in complete shutdowns in isolated areas.

"If they are safe in their homes at the moment, then going to and from training or games shouldn't be a difficult ask. And that would alleviate some of the cost and some of the pressure on the players as well.

"For our footballers, I couldn't imagine locking them away in barricaded circumstances.

"Sure they get paid a lot of money but there is a human element as well, and I'm not sure the players would do well with that isolation."