Titans players may be house-bound for two weeks after their last match, while their Broncos and Cowboys counterparts could be forced to isolate at home for eight days after their season ends due to Queensland’s strict border regulations.
Players from the NRL’s Queensland-based clubs, including the Storm, have had to begin a two-week quarantine period after every match against NSW-based teams, including the Warriors, and have been advised they will need to continue the process after their playing commitments end.
Gold Coast play their final match on Friday September 25 against Newcastle at Cbus Super Stadium, while Brisbane host North Queensland the night before at Suncorp Stadium.
For Broncos and Cowboys players, the 14-day quarantine period begins after their respective matches against Parramatta and Penrith on Friday, September 18 as their final game against each other involves two Queensland teams.
However, the Titans must wait until they play the Knights to commence their two weeks of home isolation.
Unless there is a change, the likes of AJ Brimson, Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace may have just 10 days of freedom between their completion of the home isolation period for Titans players on October 9 and entering Queensland’s State of Origin bubble on October 19.
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The requirement for Queensland-based players to isolate for 14 days after matches against NSW-based teams is separate to the NRL’s biosecurity restrictions and was a condition of games being able to be played in the state after the closure of the border on August 8.
In contrast, NSW-based players will be able to exit their team bubbles three days after their last match and NRL officials would like Broncos, Cowboys and Titans players to be able to do the same.
If they must abide by the 14-day home isolation period, the NRL is lobbying for Titans players to begin their quarantine after they return from their round-19 match in NSW against Manly at Lottoland on Saturday, September 19 as the Knights clash is on the Gold Coast.
Titans officials are awaiting a final decision before confirming details of the club's end-of-season player awards, while the Cowboys presentation will take place after the quarantine period.
The RLPA is expected to insist that players' annual leave does not start until after the quarantine period is concluded.
North Queensland centre Justin O’Neill said players had been abiding by the strict conditions for more than a month and were preparing to continue doing so until eight days after their last match against the Broncos.
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“We will finish playing and then have another week of quarantine,” O’Neill said. “It’s going to be tough to finish the comp and have to hang around home for another week. We won’t be travelling to training anymore so we will just be staying indoors.”
O’Neill told NRL.com that players had accepted the restrictions to ensure the Telstra Premiership could continue but it was difficult for them and their families as most other people in Townsville were able to live close to normal lives.
“It’s tough because here in Townsville it’s pretty much business as usual and people can do a lot of things they can’t in other states because the cases have been quite low,” O’Neill said.
“Before the restrictions with travelling across the borders and having to quarantine came in, we could continue quite normally but we have had to adapt to that.
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“We are pretty much limited to travelling to training and back, and nowhere else. At home, we can’t have any visitors so we don’t come into contact with anyone else.”
Players undergo COVID-19 testing after returning from a match in NSW and other members of their household are required to abide by the same conditions when they are home.
“There was a period where we played some home games and we played a Queensland team amongst that, so we had done our two week’s quarantine and we got to go back to normal restrictions,” O’Neill said. “But hat only lasted a week and we were back in the quarantine again.”
Storm players who are selected in the Maroons squad for State of Origin may also need to undergo similar requirements depending on when their club commitments conclude.
It is unlikely any Storm player involved in Origin will be able to return to Melbourne before the completion of the series, which is scheduled to be played on November 4, 11 and 18 in Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane.
Maroons players from NSW-based clubs whose teams miss the finals or are eliminated in the first weekend of play-offs, such as Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and St George Illawarra hooker Ben Hunt, face the possibility of a month in the Queensland bubble.
It is expected that the Maroons and Blues squads will stay at their team camps and travel to the Origin venues on the day of each match.