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Wednesday, January 20, 2021

NRL targets return date

The NRL will look to restart the 2020 competition on 28 May, less than two months after its postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The announcement, which was made by the Australian Rugby League (ARL) Commission on Thursday, also signalled an intention to play a full three-game State of Origin series, as a well as a grand final in Sydney.

ARL Chairman Peter V’landys said there was clear evidence the curve was flattening but noted the health and safety of its players and the general public was the “absolute priority”.

“The NSW Government has done a great job in reducing the infection rate from 22.27% when we suspended the competition to 1.43% today,” he said in a statement.

“The situation is changing dramatically, and we need to get moving.

“It is in the best interests of our clubs, our players, our stakeholders and importantly our fans that the competition resumes as quickly and as safely as possible.

“We have said right from the start that what we say today may need to change tomorrow.

ARL Chairman Peter V’landys announcing the suspension of the NRL competition last month. Photo: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images

“We will be flexible, and if the trend changes or if government restrictions change then so will we.”

It is not yet clear what the competition will look like, with the ARL admitting the changing landscape around government boundaries is adding to the complexity of the situation.

The announcement prompted a backlash from one of the NRL’s broadcast partners, the Nine Network, after it was reportedly left out of planning discussions.

In a strongly worded statement, the network accused the NRL of “mismanagement” over many years and took aim at a “bloated head office”.