The Warriors are working to bring their NRL staff and players home from their northern New South Wales base after the Australian Rugby League Commission's decision to suspend the 2020 NRL premiership indefinitely in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The NRL became one of the last professional contact sports to shut down in response to the spread of the coronavirus, suspending its 16-team competition last night.

While football authorities in other parts of the world bowed to government edicts against travel or public gatherings or the new reality of reduced social contact, the NRL sought to continue.

The NRL, facing a possible $500 million hit to its finances if the national league ceased, spent hours on Monday considering alternatives to a open-ended suspension of the season.


At one point it was considering moving all of its teams to the small town of Calliope in rural Queensland where matches would continue strictly for television, but even this drastic move wasn't viable.

All sports depend on broadcasting rights but league is in a tough financial position and that is what drove its attempts to find any means to continue, even with fans excluded from stadiums and inter-state travel restricted.

The head of the Australian Rugby League Commission, Peter V'landys, described the suspension as "catastrophic" but said the latest medical advice from government officials made it clear an unprecedented postponement of the NRL was necessary.

"Our pandemic and biosecurity experts said due to the outbreak it is no longer safe for our players to play," said V'landys. "This decision hasn't been taken lightly. Our experts are very concerned with the rapid rate (of spread). We were alarmed at how everything changed over the past 24 hours."

In response, Warriors' CEO Cameron George said all efforts were being made to book flights for the team and staff as soon as possible.

The Warriors had announced last Friday they were committed to continuing in the competition as long as it was running.

"It's a disappointing time but we anticipated it would reach this point at some point soon," said George.

"Our priority now is to fly the players back home to Auckland to be reunited with their families.


"In terms of the club's short and long-term future, we have much to work through and to consider.

"Clearly this crisis has already had a huge financial impact on the club and we face some real challenges but our owners are committed to ensuring the Warriors survive this."
V'landys said the NRL would survive.

"You can't understate it. It's probably the biggest challenge the game will ever face financially," he said. "Rugby league will always survive in some way but I can't guarantee it will in the same way. We're ready for the worst."

The NRL has closed its headquarters, forcing staff to take leave.

"We've briefed our clubs and all players have been told. We've asked players to not turn up to training [on Tuesday]," said NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg. "While I say it's a tough day for the game, I know it's a tough time for everyone across our community."

Australian Rules football's Australian Football League was suspended on Sunday after just one round. Rugby union's multi-nation Super Rugby tournament had previously been suspended after seven rounds. On Monday all professional rugby union teams in Australia and New Zealand also ceased to train for at least two weeks, probably longer.

Australian soccer's A-League continued over the weekend, but is also likely to be suspended this week.