The NRL has announced it will suspend the season two rounds in as the league executives ran out of options amid the coronavirus crisis.

It comes a day after the AFL called a halt the to its competition with the NRL being heavily criticised for attempting to keep the game going.

But with Australian states closing their borders, it appeared all the options to stay on the park were extinguished with the NRL closing its head office and placing staff on annual leave until May 1.

ARL commission chairman Peter V'landys and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg fronted media after 6pm on Monday to announce the suspension as the coronavirus crisis took a dramatic enough turn to sideline the game.

Advertisement

"As we said from the outset, the paramount consideration in our decision making process has always been the safety and health of our players," V'landy's said.

"Unfortunately that's taken a dramatic turn today. Our pandemic expert and biosecurity expert, have said due to the rapid rate of infection, we can no longer guarantee the safety of our players to continue to play.

"Accordingly we are suspending the season. We aren't going to put a time period to the suspension, we are going to look at every available option to us to recommence the season … every option is still on the table."

Currently there is no time frame on a return to play, but V'landys stressed a return will happen on the back of advice from experts, "not hysteria and opinions".

READ MORE:
NRL 2020 season coronavirus: NRL shuts down amid crisis
Rugby league: NRL 2020 season to continue despite coronavirus, Australia gobsmacked
Coronavirus: All 16 NRL teams could be moved to a small town in Queensland
Coronavirus: AFL postponed leaving just NRL and A-League left for live sport

More than 300,000 cases of COVID-19 reported to the World Health Organisation. Video / AP

He also suggested it was which will be more difficult with the likes of the New Zealand Warriors needing to pass two weeks of quarantine when returning to New Zealand and arriving back in Australia upon recommencement of the season.

Speaking on Fox League's NRL 360, V'landys said the closure of the Queensland borders were a key to stopping the season, as the league was looking to take all teams north.

"All options are still on the table, we are going look at all different scenarios," he said. "Naturally, our prime objective now is to get the game back on as quickly as possible, that's why we've left the window open. But I must stress, the health of our players will be foremost in our decision. Unless we can have minimal risk or no risk to the health of our players, that option will be taken off the table."

Advertisement

V'landys said it was a "crisis" with all the clubs meeting at 9am on Tuesday.

He said the NRL will be there for every club to try and keep them alive but he admitted he wanted to keep a product on the field.

Speaking on NRL Tonight on Fox Sports News, Brisbane Broncos great Corey Parker said it was an enormous decision.

"There will be thousands of people effected so it's a very dark day in rugby league," he said.

"For our sake, I hope there's a resolution, I hope there's an opportunity for us to keep marching on, whether that would be through a split competition or not, the game could be on its knees."

Parker said it was "raw" especially after V'landys had said it would be "catastrophic" if the game closed down, with the NRL's financial position in dire straits.

Fans might not have to wait long with V'landys believing the NRL will have an option in the next two weeks.

But NRL commentator Phil Gould believes the season is already a write off, and it will cost several clubs.

"We're only at the embryo stage here of the infection," he said on Channel 9's 100% Footy. "We've got to go into our winter, all these other countries have had their winter where this has spread pretty quickly and you can see the results from overseas. We're ahead of the curve on that in that we have these lock downs in place before the winter months and everyone's indoors and in close proximity, hopefully that flattens out the curve very very quickly. But the question is what's going to determine that you can resume playing? That we can come outdoors and start gathering in groups and people can go back to clubs.

"I can only think it's a vaccine and there are no more dangers of spreading the infection. You reckon that's going to happen in a month? No chance in the world. You reckon that's going to happen in six months? No chance in the world. So we're talking next year. And if the money stops between now and next year, clubs won't survive. They will have to find another way to survive than in their own existence right now."

Gould said he can't see the game coming back this season because it will take a lot for the government to allow it to return.

He added he believed the players were "safer playing than being back down where they are" with a return only happening on the back of a vaccine or another way of stopping the spread.

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

CLUBS MOST AT RISK

Speaking in the press conference, V'landys reiterated the horrible financial condition the NRL found itself in.

He admitted the NRL's war chest has $70-80 million in it but should have more than $450 million which leaves the competition on the brink.

"It's catastrophic, I don't think we've ever come across a financial crisis like this," V'landys said in the press conference.

"This is a financial crisis, you can't understate it, it's probably the biggest financial crisis the game will ever face in its history, but cooperatively and united, we will deal with it and hopefully we'll come out the other end."

The Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield agreed with Paul Kent on NRL 360 that the game will never look the same again with it unlikely to see a 16 team competition in the future.

Earlier, The Australian's Brent Read said Manly and Cronulla would be facing tough futures with the game closed down but some believed it would cut right to the bone.

Rothfield said Cronulla had $17 million in the bank, own its home ground and a golf course.

Ben Ikin said: "The game can't die, because 17 players on both sides of the field, who for the most part turn up and do it for free as coaches and players."

Rothfield said the league "need to get in there with a chainsaw" as the league have 140 full-time staff, more than the English Premier League, who have 120 full-time staff.

WORLD REACTS TO NRL 'CRISIS'

Manly Sea Eagles player Joel Thompson was one of the first players to react to the news.

But the news was met with shock and sadness from players as the gravity of the world's problem finally hit the sport.

The NRL was widely panned for trying to continue the league despite the AFL closing down.

But as the NRL finally made the decision many were asking for after exhausting all options, there were plenty of opinions about the announcement.