'Get serious': Mark Taylor and Peter FitzSimons clash over virus controversy

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Mark Taylor and Peter FitzSimons, pictured here discussing the coronavirus crisis.
Mark Taylor and Peter FitzSimons disagreed about the NRL's call. Image: Channel Nine

Mark Taylor and Peter FitzSimons have disagreed on the NRL’s decision to suspend the 2020 season after the latter again criticised ARL boss Peter V’landys.

FitzSimons has previously been vocal in criticising the NRL’s decision to keep playing in the face of the coronavirus pandemic that’s brought a shuddering halt to sport around the world.

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And despite the league biting the bullet and suspending the season last Monday, FitzSimons said the call came too late.

“When Peter V'landys says we could no longer guarantee the safety of our players, so we shut it down. Could you guarantee their safety on the Saturday when a family in New Jersey had four dead and three others fighting for their lives?” FitzSimons said on Channel Nine’s Sports Sunday.

“Could you guarantee their safety on the Sunday, when 900 people died in Italy?

“When you put out there 'we put the safety of our players as the paramount thing,' well, with the greatest of respect, no you haven't.”

Mark Taylor challenges FitzSimons

Aussie cricket legend Taylor then asked FitzSimons why the NRL would be worried about people dying in New Jersey.

“Why not? It’s a global virus. You’re looking at the disaster to come,” FitzSimons shot back.

Taylor then leapt to the NRL’s defence, saying they were complying with the expert advice they were receiving from a biosecurity expert.

“It is a global problem but you can only go on what your experts are saying in Australia,” the former Aussie captain said.

“Surely he can’t be saying ‘that’s possibly happened over there and it might happen here’.”

But that didn’t wash with FitzSimons, who went to the lengths of drawing a bell curve on his notes to show Taylor how the virus had rapidly spread overseas.

“You’re looking at the behaviour that put Italy up to there and you say, ‘Here in Australia, let’s not do the behaviour that put them there’,” FitzSimons said.

“Let’s stop all sport, let’s get serious.”

Taylor pointed out that the NRL acted according to expert advice and shut down the season as soon as they were advised to.

To which FitzSimons finished: “So to you it was sane to say social-distancing for everyone else except you footballers? That was a sane thing to say?”

“If you and I wrestled in the carpark … would we be taking precautions? Or would we be insane?”

NRL and players to decide on pay cuts

The financial stability of all 16 NRL clubs during the coronavirus crisis will be a chief concern for the players' union in one of the biggest meetings in the game's history on Monday.

Both the NRL and Rugby League Players' Association are confident a deal will be reached early this week on pay talks, with a Monday morning meeting set for all club bosses, player representatives and NRL executives.

In the teleconference, ARLC chairman V'landys will tell clubs and the players he is still hopeful the season can resume by July 1, mitigating as much damage to the game as possible.

ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys, pictured here speaking to the media in Sydney.
ARLC Chairman Peter V'landys speaks to the media in Sydney. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

But officials are still planning for the worst-case scenario as they plan player payments and club grants in case the competition doesn't restart before the September 1 deadline.

Player representatives from all 16 clubs spoke with V'landys and NRL chief Todd Greenberg on Sunday, along with South Sydney CEO Blake Solly and Brisbane counterpart Paul White.

It's expected the players' pay cut for the remainder of the year will sit around 75 per cent, after they have already been paid the first five months of their annual salary in full.

with AAP