'The face of it': NRL centre's big fear over virus shutdown

Bronson Xerri says he was terrified of being the player that caused the season to shut down. Pic: Getty

Cronulla Sharks star Bronson Xerri says he was worried about becoming the face of the NRL shutdown because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Xerri sent a scare through the club after being tested for the deadly virus in March when the competition was still in full swing.

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The NRL had initially pressed on with its season while others around the world were being suspended, citing the fact that no players had tested positive and strict protocols around self-isolation and social distancing were being adhered to.

Much like the AFL's stance, the NRL admitted at the time that as soon as a player tested positive for coronavirus, it would be forced to suspend the competition.

While no player has tested positive as yet, the NRL was left with no choice but to halt their season after advice from pandemic experts and tougher measures being implemented by the federal government.

Xerri has now admitted that while the competition was still going, he was terrified of being the face behind its shutdown.

The Cronulla centre said club protocol dictates that any medical conditions the players face must be reported to the team doctor.

When Xerri came down with flu-like symptoms, he said he didn't want it getting out in the media that he was being tested for COVID-19.

“I didn’t want to be the face of it, I was looking at myself on the news while being sick on the lounge thinking I was going to hold everyone in the game up,” Xerri told NRL.com.

The Sharks star described having his tongue and throat swabbed as a "weird experience" and said it made him "feel like a criminal".

Xerri received the results for the COVID-19 test the next day but insists it was one of the most anxious waits of his life.

“I had everyone on hold, I had heaps of messages from family, who were in contact with people at their work,” Xerri said.

“It all hit the media so then those close to me were being asked if they’d been near me, there was no escaping it then. I guess it shows how easily it could spread if others were in contact with me but showed no symptoms.”

Anger over NRL conference proposal

Xerri’s comments come as the NRL looks at ways to restart the season as soon as possible, including a controversial conference system that would reset all team’s competition points to zero.

Knights star Mitchell Pearce has sent a warning to the NRL that being stripped of competition points to start a new ‘conference plan’ tournament would not go down well with the players.

A radical proposal to isolate two 'bubbles' of teams, in NSW and Queensland, for a 14-week regular season is believed to be gathering steam at league central.

One conference would include eight Sydney-based teams, while the remaining eight sides would be quarantined in the sunshine state.

There are suggestions points earned from the two rounds of games completed before the coronavirus-enforced shutdown could be scrapped.

This prompted Knights captain Pearce to slam the notion of starting the competition again.

"I haven't even spoken to Dad, but I would be filthy if they took the points off us," Pearce told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"We want our four points. I'm sure Cameron Smith would be saying the same thing for the Storm. We had two of our best players get injured [including hooker Jayden Brailey, ACL] and that can't be for nothing."

Tallis slams NRL conference plan

Broncos legend Gordon Tallis also slammed the plan, claiming one conference would be stronger than the other.

Only two of the six teams that won their opening two rounds would play in the proposed Sydney comp: Penrith and Parramatta.

St George Illawarra, based one hour south of Sydney in Wollongong, could be asked to cross the border along with Newcastle Knights.

Each team would face each other twice before a four-week finals series, taking the entire season to 18 weeks, not including State of Origin.

The idea is understood to be one of a handful of scenarios the innovation committee will consider when it meets on Thursday.

Only two of the six teams who won their opening two games of the season come out of Sydney: Parramatta and Penrith.

The other four are Newcastle, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, all four of whom would be allocated to the non-Sydney conference.

Tallis, who played 16 Tests for Australia, is not convinced by the two-conference plan.

"I don't believe in two conferences. I really don't," he said on Fox League Live.

"If you're a Queenslander, and you're going to go to Sydney and play in front of an empty stadium, then you've got to go.

"Everybody's got to play each other once, but there can't be two conferences.

"I don't think it's fair on some teams that would be in the conferences, because one conference will be weaker than the other. There's no doubt about that."

with AAP