NRL's Queensland plan picking up steam
The push to relocate the entire NRL to Queensland has gained momentum after Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook urged the game to fast-track the season resumption in the Sunshine State.
The NRL has created a committee called Operation Bubble, or Project Apollo, to investigate how the season can recommence following the indefinite suspension of the 2020 premiership last week.
The league is hoping to restart the season by July 1, but the coronavirus pandemic has been changing so rapidly that the NRL is canvassing a raft of options to get back on the field.
Among them has been basing the entire competition, more than 500 players and staff, in a central location and isolated from the public to limit the possibility of the virus infiltrating the league.
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Super coach Wayne Bennett first touted the idea, and the NRL has received proposals from accommodation facilities in Calliope, near Gladstone, and Tangalooma on Moreton Island.
The NRL committee has not ruled out the concept and the Queensland Government is prepared to offer the code an exemption to cross the state border without having to serve 14-day quarantine protocols.
With the NRL fast running out of cash reserves, an abandoned season could have dire consequences for the game.
In his first season as an NRL head coach, Holbrook said the league should seriously consider playing four rounds in Queensland to get the season back on track.
"If we can keep the NRL to no positive results then we can get back quicker," he said.
"Had we have gone somewhere and kept playing at least we would have been able to keep playing.
"Now everyone is on their own. Is everyone self-isolating? Hopefully, but you've got to go and get groceries and mix with people.
"If we are somewhere as a team then all of those things can be looked after.
"I think it's worthwhile doing to keep our game going.
"You're not going to please everybody, but if we've got 16 fit rosters and can get something like that going then we can make a positive impact around the world with our sport.
"People might question 'why is that sport playing and others aren't?'. But if we're in a position to then it's worthwhile.
"In four weeks' time, if we think we've flattened the curve, then maybe we can shoot off and play four rounds then come back. We could get a head start.
"If the country is slowing things down, rather than waiting until everything is back to normal we can fast-track it by going somewhere to get four games in."
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The NSW Government signed off on exemptions on Wednesday night that would allow the NRL to operate south of the Tweed.
Importantly, the NRL decided to suspend its season last week and was not forced to by government policy.
The one-location competition would require those involved to make sacrifices by leaving their families and remaining locked in camp.
But Queensland Origin coach Kevin Walters said the NRL had to do everything it could to get the season back underway.
"I'm in favour of whatever it takes to get our game back playing," Walters said.
"It sends a strong message to the rest of the world. Look at us Australians and what we can do, in a safe environment of course.
"If we can get it up and running it would be an amazing story for the world to look at and see.
"Tangalooma would make sense. It's a great idea as far as isolation goes.
"We're all crying out for something to do and watch. If the NRL can pull it off, it'd be an amazing story."
Most NRL clubs have put their players on indefinite leave, but Holbrook said it wouldn't take long to prepare teams to return to play.
"We've just come off a long pre-season so we don't need that long to get them up and running," he said.
"The longer we have off the longer we will need, but if we're able to only shut down for four or five weeks it might not be that long."
Originally published as NRL's Queensland plan picking up steam