The NRL's coronavirus crisis is deepening, with the game's highest-profile player Cameron Smith slamming the competition for continuing despite health concerns.

But rugby league journalist Paul Kent has revealed the dire nature of the NRL's predicament with only "three months" runway if the game stopped playing.

It's been a crazy first weekend of the competition after major sporting leagues from around the world either suspended or cancelled events and competitions.

It turned the spotlight on the NRL, who forged ahead with the opening round of the competition with spectators.


Rugby league: Warriors left in limbo as NRL CEO Todd Greenberg announces radical coronavirus plan
Rugby league: New Zealand Warriors shut out by Newcastle Knights in NRL opener
Rugby league: John Kirwan cites Benji Marshall experiment as living lesson for Kalyn Ponga's All Blacks dream
Rugby League: Warriors coach Stephen Kearney set to spring surprise with his halves choice for NRL opener

The rapidly changing situation has seen the NRL set to go behind closed doors from round two while the world deals with the pandemic.

On Sunday, ARLC chairman Peter V'landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg fronted up to the media.

V'landys admitted the NRL would not survive long without financial assistance from the Government if the sport was suspended.

The NRL admitted all options are on the table, including isolating players and staff and suspending the season entirely.

"If it's a total closure, we haven't got long at all," V'landys said. "If it's one where we can continue to play the game with no spectators, that gives us a much greater flexibility to survive.

"It really depends on what we're faced with. If one player or ball boy catches the disease and we have to suspend the season, that's another scenario.

"I spent hours yesterday looking at all our accounts and all I could see was the word 'catastrophe' if this continues."


While refusing to reveal specific contract details of its $2 billion deal with broadcasters, V'landys said Fox Sports and Channel 9 have not put pressure on the NRL to continue playing.

However, he admitted the broadcasters will not need to pay if games are cancelled.

Speaking on Sunday Night with Matty Johns, Paul Kent revealed why the comments revealed the harsh reality of why the NRL is forging ahead.

"The fact is, the simple reality is the game can't afford to not play," he said.

"The game is so tied into the broadcast deal at the moment with a bulk of the money coming from there, the fact that there's not a lot of cash reserves. If the game was to stop playing now, I think we'd get about three months before the game would be broke.

"The plan at the moment is to continue playing as long as we can and they'll keep playing. Round three will hopefully go ahead, the only thing that will stop the competition will be if a player tests positive."


Kent said while the bosses of the game won't admit it, the game is not the same as the NBA and EPL, which has huge cash reserves to survive a suspension.

Smith calls to suspend season

Smith urged the NRL to suspend the competition following the Storm's round one win over Manly.

"If we make a decision to suspend the comp for a couple of weeks then I think it just gives everyone an opportunity to actually sum up the situation a little bit better rather than being reactive daily or hourly," Smith said.

"We want to be playing rugby league. We'd love to be playing. But this is a serious thing that's happening at the moment.

"I'm really confident with the measures we're taking as a club, particularly from our CEO Dave Donaghy and our doctor to minimise the risk around our organisation and anyone getting the virus or being around large crowds.

"This is a view of our entire team. Given our team travels a lot. We're travelling virtually every second week of the competition so we're going to be exposed to airports, air travel and large crowds a lot.


"So there is a major concern there ... our players aren't concerned about themselves, they're concerned about their families and making this issue which is already global, making it much bigger than what it is in Australia at the moment."

What next for the Warriors?

The Warriors face the impossible decision of choosing whether to remain in Australia for the entire season — or return home and be unable to participate.

Warriors players Peta Hiku and Patrick Herbert have already returned home to New Zealand for family reasons, and the Warriors have left some reserve graders in Australia for cover.

But the new self-isolation policy means no more players will be able to be flown across the Tasman in the case of further injuries.

The NRL had also planned to fly families across for players, but that and the arrival of further club staff are now also off the cards given none are booked in for travel on Sunday.

"We'll make some big decisions at the end of the week, and it will be based on family and player outcomes," George said.


"There was a lot of devastated players there yesterday, grown men with tears in their eyes because it is really a difficult period to endure when you don't know what the outcome is going to be.

"It's a reality [not being able to play in the competition]. It's on the table, we get through this weekend and we've got to make a decision with the players.

"Do we continue to do this week-by-week scenario? Or if the players want to choose to come home they come home?

"That could change during the week; some of the players could want to come home during the week."

He told Martin Devlin on Newstalk ZB the team were unlikely to play any home games in New Zealand in 2020.

"The reality is we probably won't play in New Zealand this year," George admitted.


"So many people are devastated by it, we're devastated by it, and the ramifications both for our fans, and financially for our club, are absolutely crippling and devastating."

The Warriors are due to face Manly on Friday March 27 at Lottoland. Warriors veteran Adam Blair's wife Jess voiced her concerns on social media on Saturday over players staying in Australia.

Hiku's wife is heavily pregnant and expecting a child next Friday, while Herbert has a young baby, prompting their calls to come home.

"I have a family and that is something I have to put first," Hiku said. "My partner was telling me to stay. But everything is changing day by day. We didn't want anything to happen where flights were cancelled."

V'landys also admitted the squad couldn't stay in Australia for the whole year.

Speaking before the Australian Government's announcement, V'landys hoped the New Zealand Government could change its policy, which is next up for review on March 30.


The NRL has meanwhile made contact with Warriors' apparel supplier Canterbury for more gear, given they brought enough clothes over only for Saturday's loss to Newcastle.

Players will also be paid an allowance by the NRL while they stay abroad.

Meanwhile the Australian Government's new exclusion policy all but rules the Warriors' reserve grade and junior teams out of NSW Rugby League competitions. NSWRL boss Dave Trodden was on Sunday in Fiji, trying to fly back home before the midnight deadline for the self-isolation policy.

- With