As Australia faces a nationwide shutdown to slow the spread of coronavirus, the NRL is saying the show must go on.
Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Chairman Peter V'landys told Nine News on Sunday night the league is planning to forge ahead with its season, believing it is still able to comply with the recommendations and restrictions enforced by the government and health authorities.
Yesterday the AFL announced it was suspending its season for two months but V'landys was bullish about the NRL pushing on, saying having teams in fewer states than its cross-code rival means the two sports can't be placed in the same basket.
NRL CONSIDERS RADICAL MOVE
The Courier Mail reports the NRL is considering the radical move of relocating all teams to Queensland to continue the season.
As Australian states shut their borders and "non-essential" domestic travel is cancelled, it's reported league bosses have contemplated basing all 16 clubs in the small regional town of Calliope, near Gladstone.
Discussions about the dramatic step come after Aussie actor and South Sydney co-owner Russell Crowe floated the same idea about basing everyone in nearby rural towns to ensure the season can continue.
The ARL Commission will on Monday determine the best way forward for the sport through the health crisis.
They stare down the barrel of a huge loss worth up to $500 million if the season is scrapped, or around $13 million per round lost in TV rights.
But more than half the clubs are now facing a challenge of their own following new government measures shutting clubs and pubs on Sunday night.
Nine NRL clubs are either owned by or have links to leagues clubs, and some rely on them for financial security most years.
Clubs are already doing it tough throughout the crisis, with no gate receipts and an expected flow-on effect to membership and merchandise sales.
The NRL has already handed each club $425,000 in support, but it's anticipated further strain could be placed on sides – particularly if matches are lost.
AUSTRALIA GOBSMACKED BY FOOTY 'ARROGANCE'
But as Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced all pubs, clubs, cinemas and other entertainment venues will close from midday today, and restaurants and cafes will be limited to takeaway and home delivery only, plenty of Australians struggled to digest how rugby league could possibly carry on.
Australian comedian Dave Hughes, who last week asked how the AFL could go ahead with Round 1, was among those to condemn the NRL for being allowed to continue.
Reacting to a tweet from the official NRL account that said the season will "proceed until there is advice from government to shut down matches", Hughes was baffled as to how the Prime Minister could possibly let rugby league roll on.
"So the same @ScottMorrisonMP led team who just yelled at people for going to Bondi Beach, as they are endangering us all by not social distancing, are still happy for @NRL guys to fly around the nation wrestling each other while they possibly catch and spread Coronavirus?" Hughes tweeted.
Former Australian basketballer and two-time Olympian Mark Worthington blasted the NRL for being "arrogant".
"Incredibly shortsighted. Incredibly selfish. Incredibly arrogant," Worthington tweeted.
"Why is the NRL different to the rest of the world. 'Players health is paramount'. I call BS."
The bewilderment at the call to keep the game running was a sentiment shared by many.
Channel 9 sports reporter and host of the Sunday Footy Show (AFL) Tony Jones was staggered by the NRL's decision to play on.
"What the hell is going on with the NRL?" Jones said on Today. "Why is the NRL being one out at the moment?
"We sit here in Melbourne and shake our head in amazement. The Peter V'landys of this world surely need to get a grip on reality.
"I'm sorry to my bosses, I know we're a broadcast partner of the NRL, but if that's not shut down by the end of the week, I don't know what's going on with the world.
"Wayne Bennett, who's supporting Peter V'landys, needs to check the calendar. There's nothing going on, apart from a bit of soccer."
NRL GOES GLOBAL
With so many major sporting leagues around the world having been suspended, the NRL remaining one of the last ongoing competitions means it has attracted the attention of curious international media scouring the rest of the globe for content.
The BBC in the UK reported on the NRL's decision to plough on, as did The Irish Times, while another Irish site, Ball.ie, also took notice.
"It will be interesting to see how long rugby league can hang on, the bastion of live sport out there during these terrible times," the website wrote.