The Queensland Rugby League has suspended all its statewide competitions and community rugby league in the wake of the unfolding coronavirus pandemic.
The blue-chip Intrust Super Cup competition has been suspended until June 5 with all junior and senior community rugby league in recess until the first weekend in May. In addition, all junior regional events and state carnivals will be postponed indefinitely.
The decision was taken at a QRL board meeting held on Monday night.
“This public health emergency we’re working through is unprecedented, and the health and safety of our participants is a priority, along with the welfare of Queensland communities,” QRL managing director Rob Moore said.
“The decision to put our statewide competitions, community leagues and representative programs on hold takes into account all the relevant information provided by the National Rugby League, public health authorities and the government.
“Ultimately, it is our responsibility to implement procedures that don’t place players, volunteers, staff and other stakeholders at unnecessary risk.”
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The QRL’s four statewide leagues - the Intrust Super Cup, Hastings Deering Colts, Auswide Bank Mal Meninga Cup and women’s BHP Premiership - kicked off last weekend.
The QRL aims to restart the Intrust Super Cup on June 5 which would allow all teams in the competition to play each other once before the finals series.
QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher said that the hope was that “by that time there will be significant containment of the virus and a much more stable situation”.
“The desirable thing for us at this stage is to make sure we can get every one of those 14 Intrust Super Cup clubs to have played each other once,” Hatcher told NRL.com.
“Then we can move into a finals series and have a far more legitimate competition.”
The jewel in the crown for the QRL is the State of Origin series which is to played from early June to July.
“There are a whole lot of ideas being discussed at the moment as we deal with issues beyond our control, but that is our flagship competition and there is no way we would want to lose it,” Hatcher said.
“If things improve to the extent that we hope they will improve then there would be no reason why the scheduled timing could not be retained.
“The truth is that if that were impossible then there is consideration for that series to be played at the end of the year.
“If that comes about due to a reduced NRL competition then I think there will be a lot of pent up demand to see that played as a full series at the end of this season.”
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The suspension of the Intrust Super Cup will have an impact on NRL clubs.
Clubs such as the Cowboys, Broncos, Titans and Storm place players not used in the NRL in Intrust Super Cup sides that they are aligned to.
This will not be possible until at least June 5, which means only the 17 that take the field each week in the Telstra Premiership will be seeing any game time in the coming months.
One club official told NRL.com that was not going to be an insurmountable issue by any means.
“It won’t bother the players one bit. They train above game speed at training,” the official said.
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“Apart from the warm-up, you never see them train without opposition in front of them. They are all in good shape and they are ready to play.”
The postponement of the inaugural BHP Premiership is a blow for the women’s game. If the competition can be restarted it will provide little lead-in time until the State of Origin clash on the Sunshine Coast on June 19, presuming that goes ahead.
This means that female players will likely be without any football for several months. Whether the women’s teams can hold training sessions during the recess period is yet to be determined.
The QRL said in its statement on Tuesday evening that approval for clubs to hold training sessions was an ongoing matter.
The QRL is seeking further advice from its chief medical officer, Dr Roy Saunders, as well as Queensland health authorities.