Australia's Olympic chiefs have ruled out a team attending the Games if they proceed this year. Image by EPA PHOTO

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Australia out of Tokyo 2020, NRL suspends

2020-03-23 18:25:59

Australia has pulled out of this year’s Tokyo Olympics as the NRL begrudgingly suspended its season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Soccer’s A-League is now self-isolated as the sole elite sporting competition in the country playing on amid the health crisis.

But soccer’s status is set to change when Football Federation Australia (FFA) chiefs detail the A-League’s future at a Tuesday media conference.

On Monday, the NRL, rugby union and netball became the latest Australian sports to cease as the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said this year’s Tokyo Games are untenable.

Australia joined Canada in deciding not to send a team to an Olympics this year.

The AOC said it was impossible to assemble a team for the Tokyo Games scheduled to start on July 24.

“It’s clear the Games can’t be held in July,” Australia’s team chef de mission Ian Chesterman said.

Instead, the AOC told its athletes to prepare for a 2021 Games, believing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has no choice but to postpone the sporting showpiece.

The IOC is forming contingency plans and will make a decision within a month, though cancelling the Games entirely is not being considered.

Meanwhile, the NRL reluctantly suspended its season indefinitely in a move which threatens the competition’s financial future.

“Our pandemic expert … has said due to the rapid rate of infection, we can no longer guarantee the safety of our players to continue to play,” Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys said.

“Accordingly we are suspending the season.

“We will and always consider the health of our players before anything else and we had no other option.”

Soccer’s governing body, FFA, is yet to scrap its season despite new travel restrictions in Queensland effectively closing the state’s borders and fresh travel and social edicts in New Zealand which essentially shut down the country.

The FFA cancelled an A-League game scheduled for Monday night ahead of Tuesday’s announcement which appears an inevitable halting of the A-League season.

Wellington Phoenix, in a 14-day isolation period in Sydney, remain the tipping point – the club reportedly fearing it would be locked out of NZ if they did not return by mid-Wednesday, when the nation’s stricter lockdown commences.

Also on Monday, Rugby Australia (RA) postponed a planned domestic competition and the Super Netball season was put off until at least July.

RA delayed the start of its planned domestic competition featuring the four Australian Super Rugby clubs plus the Western Force until at least May.

The makeshift competition had been proposed to start on April 3 but RA chief executive Raelene Castle said that was now unattainable.

And Netball Australia announced the start of the Super Netball season would be postponed until at least June 30 – it had been due to begin on May 2.

The developments came as the AFL told 80 per cent of the organisation’s staff they would be stood down from next Monday until at least May 31 when their season was hoped to resume.

Casual staff would be released from their roles, AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said.

“Our clubs are facing the same challenges as head office,” he said in a statement.

“We will continue to work with them on finalising an operating model during this temporary suspension period.”