The NRL is taking the unprecedented step of suspending the season due to the global coronavirus pandemic.
The ARL Commission held a meeting at Rugby League Central on Monday and right up until midway through Monday afternoon NRL officials were determined to keep the competition going given the financial fallout of postponing games, however the rapidly shifting nature of the pandemic has forced the NRL’s hand.
It is understood medical authorities updated their advice, which meant the Commission had to put its competition on hold.
Club CEOs were informed of the decision on Monday evening, with CEO Todd Greenberg and ARLC chairman Peter V’landys announcing the hiatus shortly afterwards.
“Our pandemic and biosecurity experts said due to the outbreak it is no longer safe for our players to play,” V’landys said.
“We are going to look at all the options.
“We thank the players for all their players and fans for the support. This decision hasn’t been taken lightly. Our experts are very concerned with the rapid rate.
“We were alarmed at how everything changed over the past 24 hours.
“We’ve left it open and will make further announcements in the future. All options are still on the table but what’s paramount is the health of our players.
“It’s catastrophic, I don’t think we’ve ever come across a financial crisis like it.”
He said the NRL would survive long term.
“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.”
Greenberg added: “Today is a difficult day for the rugby league community and at head office.
“We’ve briefed our clubs and all players have been told. We’ve asked players to not turn up to training tomorrow.
“While I say it’s a tough day for the game, I know it’s a tough time for everyone across our community.
“All we can do as a sport is remain united and follow the expert advice to keep everyone safe.
“We look at returning as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Greenberg said player salary cuts would be likely while V’landys said he was confident they could ensure each of the 16 clubs would remain financially viable.
“We’re talking about rugby league but we’re talking about a much broader issue in our community,” Greenberg said.
“We can still pay the players, but the cost base will need to be reset. From players to clubs, central administration.
“Rugby league has been around since 1908 and we’ve had struggles and bounced back. It won’t be easy but we’ll come out the other end.”
V’landys reiterated he wanted the NRL to be part of the Federal Government’s economic stimulus package.
“We’re in the queue with everyone else, we have to be considered with the stimulus,” he said.
Relocating all players and games north to Queensland was one option explored by the governing body before deciding against continuing the competition.
The NRL had gone ahead with the first two rounds of the competition, the first weekend with crowds before proceeding last week behind closed doors.
The New Zealand Warriors had remained in Australia after the team’s round-one loss to the Knights in Newcastle and played their match last Saturday, originally scheduled for Auckland’s Eden Park, at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.
V’landys said the Warriors could return to Auckland on Tuesday.
“The Warriors can return tomorrow, we had to make a quick decision.”
The AFL adopted similar measures on Sunday, calling off its season.
A conference call between the NRL executive and all 16 NRL clubs will take place on Tuesday morning where officials will be told about what this decision means, the ramifications of it, and the next steps for all.