The NRL is reportedly planning on having the 2020 season back up and running by June 1 - one month earlier than the mooted July 1 target.
The NRL have now shifted their attention to getting back on the field after a pay deal was brokered between them and the Rugby League Players Association on Thursday.
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According to the Daily Telegraph, the NRL has assembled a special committee tasked with formulating a plan to get the competition back underway sooner rather than later.
‘Project Apollo’ is headed by rugby league legend Wayne Pearce and named after NASA’s famous mission to the moon.
“He is also a person that thinks outside the square,” ARL commission boss V’landys told the Telegraph.
“Some of the proposals the committee is going to put forward are going to be innovate and knowing that the requirement is to recommence as quickly as possible but in doing so, ensuring that the players’ safety comes first and the community is at no risk.
“The concepts they are coming up with including the word bubble will ensure the players and the communities safety will be accommodated. July 1 is more than achievable. There is a chance it will be earlier.”
Sydney Olympic Park has been suggested as the ideal location to keep the players in a ‘bubble’ environment, while an island resort off Queensland has also offered their services.
Did NRL suspend season too early?
Meanwhile, Michael Chammas of the Sydney Morning Herald is reporting the NRL has appointed a new infectious disease expert after their pandemic expert advised them to suspend the season ‘prematurely’.
“While no one at Rugby League Central will admit it publicly, privately there are some who believe the game pulled the pin prematurely and that if it had held on for another week - or had sought additional advice - it could have implemented strict isolation and testing measures around its teams that would have allowed the game to continue behind closed doors in a remote location,” Chammas wrote on Friday.
Chammas said the new appointment is a sign the NRL is keen to recommence as early as next month.
NRL payers open to ‘bubble’ option
On Thursday the NRL players' union said they're willing to consider all the game’s stars living in a bubble together to ensure the 2020 season can restart.
Under the terms of the new pay agreement, players will receive their wages for April and May but will not be paid for the following five months if the competition doesn't resume due to the coronavirus.
But with the financial survival of the clubs and long-term position of the NRL banking on a return, all parties are desperate for the show to somehow go on.
The most feasible current option includes players being taken to a remote location, and shipped or bussed to grounds to play without any contact with the general public.
Gladstone in central Queensland has previously been floated as one option, while Tangalooma Island Resort just off Brisbane shapes as another.
Alternatively, spreading the players across different regional locations is seen as another options to mitigate the risk of illness.
And RLPA boss Clint Newton, who has a seat on the NRL's innovative committee, said he and the players were willing to consider all options even if it meant being away from families.
“We're willing to explore all options for players, provided first and foremost the players are going to be appropriately protected and kept safe, and do what we can to ensure they are not put at any adverse risk,” Newton said.
“If that means that possibly we find ourselves in a situation where we would be playing in various locations then the players have obviously demonstrated in the first few weeks (of the shutdown) that they're prepared to explore all options.
“It's just again about how are they going to be impacted, how are they going to be protected, and is this of any greater risk than what they've been going through?
“And then how is the player and their family going to be properly supported through that process?”