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Roosters clear, but back to bubble as NRL battles to rescue Magic Round

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The NRL has forced players back into strict bubbles in the hope of saving next weekend’s Magic Round amid Sydney’s latest COVID-19 scare.

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Those hopes were boosted when Sydney Roosters’  players and football staff returned negative tests to COVID-19, meaning their clash with Parramatta will go ahead as scheduled.

The entire Roosters football department, including their NRL squad, were rushed for tests on Thursday after an infected person visited a cafe 100 metres from their headquarters.

It comes as Sydney NRL players return to the bubble on Friday, with level-three restrictions back in force.

It means players will only be able to leave the house to train, play, exercise or essentials.

Eating out is now prohibited as well as visiting other households, although concessions will be made for Mother’s Day.

The fate of next weekend’s Magic Round also hangs in the balance, but the NRL hope the game’s bubble will help protect the Brisbane extravaganza.

Under the rules, players will be able to leave the house for exercise and essentials, while eating out is off the table as well as visiting other households.

Some concessions will be made for Mother’s Day on Sunday, provided they meet with NSW Health regulations.

Players will also be temperature checked on arrival at games and can be ruled out if they show signs of a fever.

“We’re just going to be very cautious here,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told AAP.

“We’re doing this as a precaution. We’ve got every confidence in the NSW government’s tracing and the situation is under hand.

“But we want to make sure we keep the competition running and keep the players and officials safe.”

Gold Coast players will be flown in on a charter flight for Saturday’s clash with Wests Tigers, but they will not return for all matches.

That keeps alive hopes of next weekend’s Magic Round going ahead in Brisbane.

While Queensland opted against shutting their borders to Sydney on Thursday, any rise in case numbers could create significant headaches for the NRL.

“We’ll wait to see what unfolds and we’ve been in contact with the Queensland government,” Abdo said.

“These additional protocols are good for us because that gives us a bit more flexibility around what we might have to do if the borders close.

“We’re hopeful they don’t but we’re ready for that.”

Even if Magic Round was to return to normal home-and-away fixtures, there will be clashes with the SCG booked by the AFL next Saturday and AAMI Park being occupied by the A-League on the Sunday.

The Roosters have a designated home game on Saturday as per the Magic Round schedule, as do Melbourne on Sunday.

More immediately crowds won’t be reduced at matches this weekend, but the league is likely to wait until Friday morning before making any further announcement for the night game between the Roosters and Parramatta.

The entire Roosters squad were sent for COVID-19 tests on Thursday morning and non-football staff told to stay home after a known case visited venues through the city’s eastern suburbs.

The main concern centres around the infected person’s visit to the Azure Cafe on Monday, less than 100 metres from the Roosters’ headquarters.

The Moore Park cafe in the Entertainment Quarter is a popular coffee stop and lunch venue for both Roosters and Sydney Swans AFL players, as well as sports officials.

Working in the Roosters’ favour is that players had been sent home early from training on Monday after confirmation of Brett Morris’ ACL injury.

It’s believed no Roosters players or staff were in the cafe at the time of the infected individual and the team was still able to train on Thursday after the tests.

The players’ results are due back early Friday morning.

Meanwhile, curtain-raisers to Sydney NRL games across this week’s round will not played.

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