Peter FitzSimons has taken a stunning swipe at ARL Commission chief Peter V'landys, over comments he made about the NRL shutting down.
V'landys told the Sydney Morning Herald this weekend that it was his belief the NRL could have forged ahead through the coronavirus pandemic, without the competition needing to close down.
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However, the league boss admitted that it would have been a public relations nightmare, with all other major sporting competitions around Australia and the world, taking the decision to suspend their seasons.
“Public relations-wise, it would’ve been difficult. People would’ve asked, “Why is rugby league still going and we’re not?” It would’ve been a nightmare, along with the closure of the borders,” V’landys said.
“But racing proved you can do it properly if you follow the correct biosecurity measures. People say players are spitting all over each other. But if they’re all negative, what does it matter?”
Former Wallabies player FitzSimons - who has been an outspoken critic of the NRL's push to restart their season in the coming days - told Channel Nine on Sunday that he finds V'landys claims preposterous.
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) May 24, 2020
“The idea that they were wrong to shut it down, absolutely absurd. At the time, it was stunning that they were able to keep it going for two weeks.
“If they’d gone on for three weeks, there would have been an uprising. They had to stop.
“I hope [it’s] proven right, that it’s a wise decision [to restart].
“I still have my fears that it’s coming back way too early and that what’s happened is, from the moment the government let them through the traffic lights, everybody else stop, you go through ... of course everybody else has to go through.”
NRL cleared to resume as referee dispute ends
The NRL cleared one of its final hurdles ahead of Thursday's season restart when mooted strike action from referees was averted and a bitter dispute with the NRL was ended.
The threat of legal action by referees was canned on Friday with the NRL getting the go-ahead to scrap the pocket official for 2020, in a major cost-cutting move.
A decision on whether the game would revert to two referees or carry on with one in 2021 will be made at a later date.
FitzSimons also took aim the scrapping of the pocket referee, claiming it was well within the rights of officials to protest the snap decision.
“What was rugby league about when it started? It was about the rights of the workers for a start to earn a dollar,” Fitzsimons said.
“You have 16 first grade referees, many of whom had upended their life, moved states and devoted their life and when it suddenly announced with six minutes notice we are cutting your workforce in half, excuse me there are workers rights involved here.
“You can’t just dismiss the referees. They are an absolute key part of the game. To give them six minutes notice, why wouldn’t they protest? Don’t they have rights too?”
Another issue to be finalised in coming days will be signing off on new broadcast deals.
The ARL Commission on Tuesday approved a deal to be sent to both Nine and Fox Sports, with approval still required from both their boards.
The proposed deal has Fox Sports remain as the game's Pay TV broadcasters until at least the end of 2027 while Nine's deal will at this stage run until the end of 2022, however it could still extend.
Both deals are expected to be finalised before the season resumption.