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NRL weighs up island ‘bubble’ proposal, Vegas linked to NBA role

Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) is weighing up multiple models to return to action, including a novel proposal to be based on an island off the coast of Queensland, while North American basketball league the NBA is reportedly considering the idea of ending its season in Las Vegas.

With sports leagues across the world now assessing how they will resume play amid COVID-19, the NRL today (Friday) outlined its options following a pay deal struck with the Players’ Association (RLPA). On March 23, the NRL joined the Australian Football League (AFL) in suspending its 2020 season, with officials from the two bodies stating their sports faced substantial financial challenges.

The deal with the RLPA, under which players will receive their wages for April and May, but not be paid for the following five months if the competition doesn’t resume, has opened the door to talks being held on competition models.

Earlier in the week, a proposal hit the headlines for a Queensland-based end to the season. David James, manager of the Tangalooma Island Resort on Moreton Island, said his complex could be adapted as a training and accommodation hub for all players, who would be ferried to the mainland to play games at locked-down stadia. said several locations in Queensland, including the city of Gladstone, have been proposed as potentially playing host to the entire competition, while Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium (pictured) has also put forward a proposal for several ‘Magic Round’ fixtures to be played throughout the state.

Sydney’s Olympic Park is also being suggested as a possible location for a ‘bubble’ precinct, but the city’s higher number of COVID-19 cases could create issues. Canberra’s Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and the neighbouring GIO Stadium are also being considered under a similar model, while said other ideas include a wildcard weekend format allowing 10 teams to potentially qualify for the final series.

Speaking to Fox Sports, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said: “The concept is as simple as trying to find innovative ways to get the game back. Whether that’s putting players in secure environments, or restructuring how the competition looks and feels, we’re open to all suggestions.

“At the moment there are no bad ideas. We’re going to model a number of those scenarios to put to the commission at the back end of April and we’re going to push really hard. Obviously there are some things out of our control.

“We don’t have a line of sight yet on what the government restrictions will look like or border controls on our teams in both Queensland and New Zealand, but what we don’t want to do is not be ready.”

Recommendations will be put forward by the end of the month and Greenberg admitted that nothing is being ruled out, including the Moreton Island proposal. He told Wide World of Sports Radio: “It’s an option, it’s certainly not off the table. One thing we have learned in this period is… don’t say no to anything until you have found out how it would work. It’s certainly an option but there are other options we are considering.”

Meanwhile, Sports Illustrated has reported that the NBA is exploring the feasibility of staging its entire postseason in Las Vegas. Citing league sources, SI said Vegas is the only city the league is currently giving serious thought to, with regards staging a quarantined event in one location.

CNBC last week reported that the NBA could play a best of five series’ in the first round and the Finals, with a one-and-done type tournament replacing the two rounds in between. The NBA currently stages its annual Summer League in Las Vegas, with the Thomas & Mack Center and Cox Pavilion already contracted from July 10-20.

The NBA last month suspended operations on an indefinite basis after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for COVID-19.

Image: Tourism & Events Queensland