NRL players banned from pubs, clubs, movies under new Covid measures

NRL players have been banned from all indoor venues such as pubs, nightclubs and even cinemas, and will need people visiting their house to pass a rapid antigen test beforehand as all 16 clubs were ordered to delay their return to pre-season training.

The escalating Covid-19 threat across Australia has prompted the NRL to impose a series of hardline restrictions on its players, even though there’s still two months until season kick-off.

Part of the measures include a return to the bubble-like protocols which ensured the 2020 and 2021 seasons were completed, with sources familiar with the situation saying all players had been told not to enter pubs, bars, nightclubs, bowling alleys and cinemas until further notice.

Restaurants and cafes are still permissible, as long as players sit at outdoor seating and are provided table service. That includes outdoor areas at pubs and clubs.

And while most of the general public celebrated the festive season with large private gatherings, the NRL has ruled all personnel on its Apollo register must only have up to 10 visitors to their home per day - and each visitor will be required to provide a negative RAT before attending.

A partner or child of a player who doesn’t reside with them will only be allowed indoors if they can also show they’re Covid-19 free with a rapid test.

While the measures may seem drastic, the NRL wants to mitigate any risk when its 480 players return to pre-season training this week after the festive period and holidays interstate.

It’s why they told all 16 coaches they had to amend pre-season schedules for players to return to training no earlier than Thursday as they try to bed down testing procedures.

All players will be asked to take a RAT before entering training each day, and even members of their own household will be need to prove they’re Covid-19 free the day before players return to pre-season.

The dwindling number of unvaccinated players in the NRL will have even harsher restrictions imposed upon their training return, including separate bathroom and eating areas as well as segregated indoor gym use.

They will only be allowed to leave home for essential household tasks, and not visit another household or have visitors to their home.

Bulldogs player John Asiata is the only player to walk away from his contract because of his vaccination stance, later signing with English second-tier club Leigh.

Already this summer players from the Big Bash League, NBL and A-League have been stood down for games after contracting the virus. Australian batter Travis Head will miss the fourth Ashes test in Sydney after contracting Covid-19.

Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has urged Australian Rugby League Commission boss Peter V’landys to allow a club’s entire list - including development players - to be available for selection to cover Covid-19 absences in 2022.

The English Premier League has already been forced to postpone 18 fixtures over its busy festive period due to Covid-19 spread, but mandated clubs would be required to play if they had 13 outfield players and a goalkeeper available.