NRL’s strict new COVID-19 lockdown laws
It's taken a world pandemic to get rid of the wrestle.
And every NRL player is banned from signing an autograph or kissing an acquaintance.
Strict new NRL guidelines metered out to all 16 clubs have outlined the unwavering training protocols and lockdown laws that every club and player must follow during the current suspension of the season.
The new rules, which carry a financial breach notice if clubs and players ignore them, are tough, unapologetic and enforced to kerb every player from contracting and transmitting COVID-19.
Relive classic NRL matches from the 60s to today on KAYO SPORTS. New to Kayo? Get your 14-day free trial & start streaming instantly >
As of Sunday, every NRL player is banned from stepping foot on their club's premises - and club officials, including coaching staff, are banned from meeting players without special permission.
For at least the next three months, every player must minimise all physical contact with virtually anyone outside their own home.
"Avoid all physical contact - no handshakes, kissing, high-fives, hugs etc with any member of the public, including friends or acquaintances," the new rules state.
"This means no selfies, sharing/touching phones, no touching pens to sign autographs etc."
The confidential six-page document, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph, was sent to every club CEO and football manager on Friday.
A snapshot of the new measures include:
* No visitors are allowed to players homes
* No group training; all contact training drills are banned, notably wrestling
* All ballwork sessions need to be performed alone
* Injured players will require exemption for treatment by a club staffer, to be performed only at the player's home
Aside from player welfare and safety, the rules have also been designed to ensure all clubs are operating under a consistent level of restrictions during the shutdown.
Clubs had been fearful their rivals would seek a competitive edge during the suspension of the competition, but the new guidelines make it nearly impossible.
So strict are the measures, the ability for players to train at an elite level are so restrictive they raise serious questions as to how realistic it is to expect every player to be ready to return for play - even with an NRL proposed two-to-four-week pre-season - when the season does resume.
"We understand the protocols mean there is going to be some significant restrictions on you, but they are absolutely necessary to protect your health and safety, and that of your family and friends," the memorandum to all NRL players reads.
"Any training or rehabilitation programs, coaching sessions or other similar activities must be provided remotely.
"Your club may provide you with ballwork drills but none that requires training with a partner or a group. Remember, all training must be conducted on your own.
"Clubs can prescribe training and rehabilitation programs for players, however the programs need to be conducted in isolation, either in the player's home or outdoor space which complies with government restrictions, including social-distancing requirements.
"Where these sessions are conducted in a suitable outdoor space, players must avoid touching any hard surfaces or equipment, for example outdoor council gyms.
"All training must be non-contact and maintain social distancing and avoid the risk of transmission.
"Club gyms or indoor sports facilities, including boxing, yoga rooms, swimming pools, dojos or other martial arts facilities, cannot be used.
Under the heading Player Protocols, the rules outline the highly restrictive amount of training the players can do.
"You're club premises, including the gym, are closed during the shutdown," the NRL rules state.
"You must not go to your club without permission from your CEO or club medical officer.
"All training and rehabilitation programs and coaching sessions will be provided remotely by your club.
"Your football department will be in contact regarding how these will be delivered through technology platforms.
"Training must be conducted on your own, or in an outdoor space which complies with government restrictions where you are.
"If training outdoors, you must maintain a four-metre space between you and other people at all times."
The NRL's new training guidelines and the ability for clubs to interact, train or coach their players, is fundamentally why more than half the competition have stood down - or peeled back to a skeleton staff - their football departments.
Originally published as NRL's strict new COVID-19 lockdown laws