Former Cronulla captain Paul Gallen (centre) says a new trophy should be awarded if the NRL resumes. Image by David Moir/AAP PHOTOS

rugby league

Furner vows to uphold NRL comp integrity

2020-04-08 20:21:23

Half of the NRL could be temporarily based in Sydney as the league attempts to hastily resume its competition as early as late May. 

The innovations committee will on Thursday morning present a number of proposals to the ARL Commission in a bid to get the game up and running again.

One idea sees the likes of Brisbane, North Queensland, Gold Coast, Melbourne and the Warriors housed in the harbour city. 

The non-Sydney clubs may have no choice given the current border restrictions in the sunshine state and in New Zealand due to the coronavirus. 

The leading scenario involves each team playing each other once, with State of Origin retaining its spot in the middle of the season. 

With two rounds already completed, it would mean a further 13 rounds of the regular season before the finals series begins in September. 

Canberra chief executive Don Furner, who is part of the ‘Project Apollo’ innovation committee, said upholding the integrity of the competition remains the priority.

Furner’s preference is for all 16 teams to face each other once. 

“Absolutely. That’s the only way you can go. You can’t just come up with another competition,” he told AAP on Wednesday night.

His comments come after former stars Paul Gallen and Sam Burgess called for competition points to be scrapped in favour of a new conference trophy.

“It isn’t going to be what it was,” Furner said. 

“So we’ve got to make it as authentic as possible. That’s why playing each other once, having the semi-finals near enough to where they would have been, trying to keep Origin near enough to where it would have been (is important).”

As part of the innovation committee, former NSW deputy premier Troy Grant revealed he primarily worked on the biosecurity measures surrounding the restart. 

NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo looked after the commercial aspects, while Furner and Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson handled scheduling. 

The radical notion of a two conference system remains an option, however Grant conceded the idea came with some faults. 

“That would work for six rounds of the competition, starting from round three, before the competition would be corrupted,” Grant said on Fox League Live. 

It is understood players could return back to training as soon as the start of May, with the competition to recommence as early as May 21. 

Officials are then hoping travelling restrictions could be lifted, and non-Sydney teams would avoid having to isolate for an extended period away from families.

As it stands, Queensland residents returning home must self-isolate for a fortnight should they travel interstate. 

New Zealand remains in lockdown for another two weeks. 

It comes after the NSW government said it could begin relaxing some restrictions next month after a flattening of the virus infection curve in recent days. 

“That creates plenty of options to us to retrofit a particular model into that timeline, with the consideration about the other jurisdictions, New Zealand, Victoria and Queensland about what we can do about their particular rules,” Grant said.