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May 28: ARL Commission proposes date for NRL to restart

The ARL Commission has announced the NRL is planning to restart the competition on May 28 and also intends to play a full three-game State of Origin series.

In making the announcement, the NRL reiterated that the grand final would remain in its traditional format of one match, played in Sydney.

The NRL's innovations committee and the ARL Commission each met on Thursday to discuss rescheduling the season due to the hiatus brought about last month by the coronavirus pandemic. A phone hook-up was then held with representatives from each of the 16 clubs.

In its statement, the NRL said it would continue to work with governments in Queensland, Victoria and New Zealand about what restrictions may look like at the end of May. 

ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce, who is heading up the innovations committee, said: "I'm pleased to announce we're planning a competition start on May 28.

"The details on the competition structure we haven't got yet because the landscape is changing around government boundaries. That will feed into the complexity structure.

There's a lot of people that will be happy with the decision to get the competition running again.

Wayne Pearce

"Today what we landed on was a starting date.

"We haven't finalised what that [competition] looks like yet. Why we want to firm up a date is to give certainty to players and their schedules, clubs and thousands of people who are out of work through clubs and millions of fans.

"It's a mark for everyone to work towards that's associated with the game."

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Roosters coach Trent Robinson, Raiders CEO Don Furner, RLPA CEO Clint Newton, former NSW Deputy Premier Troy Grant and the NRL's chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo, chief corporate affairs officer Liz Deegan and head of football Graham Annesley are also on the innovations committee.

ARL chairman Peter V'landys said their goal was "to give as much certainty as we can in uncertain times".

"There is clear evidence the curve is flattening. The NSW Government has done a great job in reducing the infection rate from 22.27% when we suspended the competition to 1.43% today. 

"The situation is changing dramatically and we need to get moving. It is in the best interests of our clubs, our players, our stakeholders and importantly our fans that the competition resumes as quickly and as safely as possible.

"We have said right from the start that what we say today may need to change tomorrow. We will be flexible, and if the trend changes or if government restrictions change then so will we. The health and safety of our players and the general public remains the absolute priority."

Last time they met: Sea Eagles v Knights - Round 20, 2019

Pearce echoed those comments by saying it was impossible to predict the future with any great certainty.

"Because we're talking about seven weeks away the landscape is changing significantly," Pearce said.

"It was only a few days ago it was looking like we were having to go into an isolation bubble scenario with the support of a state government who are doing a fantastic job."

Pearce indicated the draw for the rest of the season would not be split into conferences.

"We're leaning towards a competition structure that looks more aligned with what we've currently got. We're not going to the conference scenario at the moment," he said.

"We've currently got support from the NSW government in terms of if we adhere to public health guidelines and make sure our players follow those guidelines we are able to train and play provided we have strict measures around testing the players and put other protocols in place to minimise the risk of infection within the playing group and community.

"What's really important for us is the welfare issue. We're working with respective governments - NZ, Victorian and Queensland - for teams that have to travel. The welfare issue of players being away from families is a significant factor we need to address."

Latrell Mitchell's 2019 tries

He added the players had been involved in the entire process via RLPA boss Clint Newton.

As to when the season was likely to end, Pearce said: "That's the piece of work we need to do that's subject to a number of variables, one of which is government regulations.

"If they're stringent and players aren't able to go back to their home environment that makes it difficult to expect them to be away from their kids for a long period of time.

"I think there's a lot of positives with the competition up and running again. The players, staff at clubs, services to clubs that will benefit. There's a lot of people that will be happy with the decision to get the competition running again."

When asked about Channel Nine declaring it was unhappy with the financial management of the game on Thursday, Pearce said: "They're a key partner for us and we intend to fulfil our contractual obligations. We hope to maintain a working relationship that will work for both parties."

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Acknowledgement of Country

Penrith Panthers players and staff respect and honour the traditional custodians of the land and pay our respects to their elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.