Canterbury Bulldogs, without a win in 2020, took on the Manly Sea Eagles in the final game of the restart weekend in the NRL. The venue was the Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, the site of yesterday’s game between the Warriors and the Dragons.
It was a breathless night in the Stadium with both sides relieved that darkness offered some relief from the heat.
With both sides needing a win it should have been a competitive game but one side got on a roll and dominated proceedings.
Two pointless sides were first up on Saturday in the NRL as New Zealand Warriors faced St George Illawarra Dragons at the Central Coast Stadium in Gosford, an hour’s drive north of Sydney.
Much has been written about the personal sacrifices made by the Warriors, who have relocated away from their families and friends to New South Wales, to allow them to compete in the competition despite coronavirus restrictions. This move has enabled the competition to restart and made them most Australians new ‘second team’.
Both sides needed a win to kick-start their 2020 season after a disappointing opening two pre-Covid-19 games.
The household names of the Sydney Roosters were looking for a first win of the season as they looked to take the points of neighbours, the Rabbitohs, in a tantalising third round match up at the Bankwest Stadium in western Sydney.
There is no love lost between the Roosters and the Rabbitohs and with a shortened season the first meeting of the year between these two sides had a even greater meaning with even more at stake.
A big pre-match talking point was the absence of Roosters star forward Siosiua Taukeiaho after he failed to recover from injury. The Rabbitohs were without their stand-off Cody Walker who is serving a suspension after his club failed to inform the NRL of his involvement in an off-field incident back in December.
It’s sixty-seven days since rugby league disappeared from our lives, and from our screens, but as the Brisbane Broncos and Paramatta Eels took to the field at a shade before eleven o’clock this morning it signalled a return to some semblance of normality after the horrendous coronavirus pandemic. Project Apollo had landed.
The game was played behind closed doors, and after much gnashing of teeth, detailed preparation, tests and vaccinations, and a fair bit of bad press and controversy. There was a reversion to a single referee, no ball boys, and a new ‘six-again’ rule when a defensive side have committed some offenses which would previously have seen a penalty awarded.
But the rugby starved public were, on the whole, delighted about the return and settled down in their armchairs to watch events unfold in the truncated NRL season.
We suspect that Australian Rugby League will be getting some new followers as the NRL swings back into post-Covid action in just ten days time, albeit behind closed doors and under strict health control measures.
In a nation crying out for a return to some semblance of normality, the reintroduction of the full-blooded Aussie league will have old and new British based supporters setting their alarm clocks to help themselves to a feast of club rugby.
When does it all get going, and how early am I going to have to get up?
Many rugby league sides will have breathed a massive sigh of relief as the news broke overnight that the government had set aside a sum of £16 million to safeguard the sport through the Coronavirus pandemic.
RFL chairman Ralph Rimmer had been petitioning the government for support since the shutdown in mid-March, and Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said that the government had made the move to ‘protect the entire sport’.
Rugby League looks almost certain to be back in our lives from the 28th May, just four weeks away, as the NRL have been given the go-ahead to return to action under strict hygiene rules as the Aussie game comes out of enforced hibernation.
There is still some discussion over the duration of the season, in terms of the number of weeks over which it will be played, but it is almost certain to start over the last weekend of May and likely to culminate in a Grand Final on the 25th October.
It’s been thirty-six days since we last saw a ball kicked in Super League, and a whole month since the National Rugby League in Australia padlocked the stadium gates, as the silent killer Coronavirus has gone on an international rampage leaving a trail of death and emotional destruction.
With all other sport being put on hold, as responsible people stay at home and cram DVD box sets or get full value out of their Netflix subscriptions, there is a real desire to return to some kind of rugby league action.
In the interests of national sanity, we look at some of the options being suggested to at least enable a limited return.
With all sport, let alone Rugby League, suspended across the world only the Australians were pushing forward with a full NRL programme albeit behind closed doors.
Starved of live domestic action, we took a look at the Sydney Roosters against Manly Sea Eagles as both sides looked for their first win of the season after suffering defeats on their opening games last weekend.
A decent win could lift either side into the top five, but in a fledgling league table, a heavy defeat could mean that one of them could end the weekend at the bottom.