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Graham: Teams 'distracted' but show must go on

Wade Graham has conceded that "every team is distracted" amid the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic but the Sharks captain supports the season continuing as long as possible.

Cronulla face 2016 grand final opponents Melbourne at their new home of Netstrata Jubilee Oval in Kogarah on Sunday, with no crowd able to add to the spice between the great rivals.

Storm skipper Cameron Smith called for the competition to be suspended after his side's round one win over Manly, citing the required constant interstate travel as a potential danger.

Private charter flights to get teams travelling interstate in and out on game-day have been arranged for this week.

Graham, an RLPA board member, respects Smith's thoughts but is happy with how the crisis is being handled.

"It's a very strange time in the game," said Graham, who has been in regular contact with the RLPA to pass updates onto his team.

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"In some capacity, every team's distracted at the moment, because players, at an individual level, are all distracted. People have different worries, different circumstances - some of the fears that Cameron brought up about family members and young children.

"Everyone's got different circumstances. At a time like this when it's such a big issue – not just in rugby league but society at the moment – there's going to be distractions everywhere.

"The key for us as players is to try and focus on the footy when you're at the footy. And when you're not you can manage your other stuff. It's not a great time for anyone at the moment but the game is generally working as best they can together to try and manage it."

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The Sharks second-rower is reluctant for the NRL to follow the AFL's lead and make an early call to shorten its season.

"I think as soon as you take something off the table you sort of can't go back on that," Graham said.

"I feel like by keeping the option available to play, it keeps all those different scenarios still available. As soon as you take one off the table, it's gone, you can't go back on it.

"It is a fast-moving environment. It is day-to-day, it could be hour-to-hour, so I think by the NRL taking the precautions, taking the time possible, it does allow them a little bit more flexibility because they have, obviously, more options.

"If nothing was to happen in the next two weeks [with a player testing positive], well we squeeze out another two weeks. And then we can address, say, maybe suspending a season if that's what it comes to."

Meanwhile, Shaun Johnson sympathised with his former Warriors teammates, who are based in Kingscliff after New Zealand imposed a 14-day quarantine period on anyone entering the country.

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"They've been put in a pretty tough spot with having to stay over here pretty last minute," the Cronulla five-eighth said.

"And I know what that would feel like for them. That's obviously a challenge in itself.

"I know players and teams have reached out to show appreciation for them doing that, allowing us to play this weekend.

"If they were to go home I don’t think anyone could argue that. A lot of the boys there have got young families at home, kids on the way, newborns. It's a difficult position."

Johnson backed up Graham and halves partner Chad Townsend in saying he was fine to keep playing so long as the experts being consulted by the NRL deem it safe.

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