Storm fans kept at distance in virus move

Melissa Woods

Melbourne are outlawing high-fives and selfies with fans as the NRL club braces for the possibility of playing in front of empty stadiums because of the coronavirus.

Ahead of their round one opener against Manly on Sunday in Sydney, the Storm have banned players from contact with fans as part of their usual post-match interaction, while media will also be kept at a distance.

The changeroom will be off-limits to all but necessary staff while some Storm employees are already working from home as the club looks to protect players from the pandemic.

Melbourne are on high alert when a fan at a recent Melbourne Rebels Super Rugby match tested positive after attending a match at their shared home ground AAMI Park.

"It's obviously concerning and there's some things we've done around the club so far," said coach Craig Bellamy on Thursday.

"Obviously the health of our players is paramount so that's our No.1 priority so the more precautions that we take that can lower the percentage of them catching anything ... we're certainly taking some.

"Basically it's business as usual for the team as far as training but some staff in the office are working from home."

Sporting codes around the globe are forming contingency plans should health authorities and governments ban large gatherings of people, with some already playing in empty stadiums.

Bellamy said it would be bizarre for NRL players but he backed the move if necessary.

"You couldn't imagine that here (Melbourne) - I think I might have played a bit of juniors at home and there weren't many there when it was snowing," he said.

"That's going to be really strange for everyone, and especially players and I wouldn't like to see that happen but if that's the best thing so be it."