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NRL plan for May 21 kick-off wins NSW support, Palaszczuk says 'too soon'

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The NRL could resume its competition as early as May 21 and the restart will receive the backing of the NSW Government.

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With the ARL Commission to decide on Thursday when and how it will resume its competition, the NSW Government is supporting a restart.

According to NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro, the NRL is the tonic Australia needs to endure the deadly coronavirus.

Barilaro described watching rugby league as being fundamentally Australian, and it is important some sort of normality is achieved during the crisis.

“You measure risk versus the economic uplift, the social uplift, the mental wellbeing uplift,” Barilaro said on Fox League Live.

“And there’s no doubt that the NRL is the tonic we need to get through this virus.”

But Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk – who attended the opening of the new Townsville stadium shortly before large public gatherings were banned – urged caution. She wants people to focus on staying home where possible and not spreading the coronavirus.

“I think it is premature to be talking about NRL at this stage,” Palaszczuk told reporters on Thursday.

“Honestly, we are in a serious stage at the moment.”

An innovative committee will present a number of proposals to the Commission, including temporarily relocating non-Sydney teams to the Harbour City.

How long the likes of Brisbane, North Queensland, Gold Coast, Melbourne and the Warriors stay in Sydney depends on interstate travel restrictions.

It is understood some teams could be housed in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct, while the Panthers Rugby League Academy is another option. Calls for an “NRL Island” had prompted speculation of several suitable sites in Queensland, although it is unclear whether the Palaszczuk Government had any involvement.

Barilaro said the league would have the NSW Government’s backing to restart its season, which was suspended after round two, to resume as early as May 21.

He hailed ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys for the way he kept the racing industry going during the pandemic.

“I’m a big fan of Peter V’landys and what he’s done with racing. Racing continues as we speak. They’ve put in all the protocols and measures,” Barilaro said.

“And we’ve got to be flexible enough to work with the NRL.

“We need this more than ever before. Of course, the Government will have to put some level of support into it. There’s no question about that.

“We’ll do that when there is an ask and plan pitched to government.”

Barilaro’s comments come after NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian hinted at restrictions being loosened in a couple of weeks.

Barilaro also said having the NRL back would provide a mental lift for the nation.

“I’m confident that rugby league will lift the hopes and spirits of our nation and I know we’ve got a Prime Minister that loves his league,” he said.

“You’ve got supporters at State Government level. I believe it’s got to be one of the first moves to get the NRL going again.”

-AAP – Matt Encarnacion

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