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Desperate to play through the crisis, the league’s hopes were dealt a severe blow on Monday afternoon when a pandemic expert told them it was no longer possible.
The suspension will come into effect immediately before round three, with the NRL still exploring options on when and how it can resume the competition.
“This decision hasn’t been taken lightly but we have a world-renowned pandemic expert and they are very concerned at the rate of this infection,” chairman Peter V’landys said.
“We will and always will consider the health of our players before anything else.”
Unlike the AFL on Sunday, the NRL have opted against putting a return date for play.
Instead, they have told players to remain in self-isolation and will begin consider multiple options on getting back on the field.
“We are going to look at every available option to us in the next week or so as to how we can recommence the season,” V’landys said.
“Be it in other areas or northern Queensland. All the options are still on the table.
“We’ve left (the return date) open and will probably make some announcements in the future.”
The decision could have dire financial impacts on the league, with V’landys warning it could change the face of the NRL if the season is completely lost.
It’s believed as much as $13 million could be lost from broadcasters for every round not played, or $500 million for the entire year.
However, the NRL are willing to play until as late as December 20, giving them around three months to return given split rounds and representative rounds could be manipulated.
“It’s catastrophic,” V’landys said.
“I don’t think we have ever come across a financial crisis like this. We are all effected.
“This is a financial crisis. You can’t understate it. It’s probably the biggest financial challenge the game has faced in its history.”
The NRL had already told staff on Monday they would have to take annual leave, with the head office to be closed until May 1 in a bid to save money.
Players had also accepted on Monday before the announcement they could have to take pay cuts.