Olympics paused as NRL, AFL remain in flux

Steve Larkin
AOC chief executive Matt Carroll says athletes will not need to re-qualify for the Tokyo Olympics

A batch of Australia's Olympians have been promised they will not need to clear another qualification hurdle as the nation's football codes grapple with the prospect of not playing again this year.

In the wake of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games being officially postponed until next year, Australia's athletes who have already qualified have received some comfort.

Athletes who have already met qualifying criteria have been told by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) they will not need to re-qualify.

"That is our understanding at this time," AOC chief executive Matt Carroll said on Wednesday.

"The events that have been held for these qualifications are done."

Some 43 Australian athletes have already been formally selected for the Tokyo Games, with a range of others meeting qualifying standards.

The Games, scheduled to start on July 24 this year, have been postponed by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese government because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's a challenging moment in history, tragic times globally, but athletes in sports now have absolute clarity that enables them to focus on a Games in 2021," Carroll said.

His comments came as more NRL coaches were stood down on Wednesday after the suspension of their season.

Cronulla's John Morris joined other head coaches Ivan Cleary (Panthers), Dean Pay (Bulldogs) and Adam O'Brien (Knights) in being stood down, with the remainder expected to soon follow.

The NRL told clubs on Tuesday it had designed scenarios for the season to resume at the beginning of June, July, August, and as late as September.

But the biosecurity and pandemic expert who advised the league to cease has given a grim warning that the season is unlikely to resume at all.

"I don't think it's going to be this year," the expert, who declined to be identified, told Nine newspapers.

"I think we will be dealing with this epidemic for the better part of this year.

"The idea is to manage the catastrophic disruption to society until we can vaccinate people and protect them, then we can resume normal societal functions like sport.

"But that won't be any time this year."

Those comments will have been noted within the AFL, which has suspended competition until at least May 31.

AFL headquarters and the 18 clubs have stood down about 80 per cent of staff, though players and league bosses remain at loggerheads on pay cuts.

Players have offered to take a 50 per cent reduction until the end of May but the AFL's bosses want a greater commitment.

AFL Players Association president Patrick Dangerfield urged patience as players digested the fallout.

"We need to put some time in before shooting from the hip ... it's being pitched as a pay war and it's not the case," Dangerfield told SEN radio on Wednesday.

"The facts are that we only know what the next two months looks like.

"Are we prepared to take longer term cuts? Absolutely.

"But we need a bit more information in regards to where the season is going."