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NRL issues stringent player guidelines to help prevent spread of coronavirus

NRL players have been told to limit interaction with fans at matches while community visits may also be cancelled as part of measures brought in to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has led the NBA to suspend its season.

Starting with Thursday night's Bankwest Stadium season-opening clash between Parramatta and Canterbury, players have been advised to limit mingling with fans prior to matches or on the field after full-time, where they often interact with friends, supporters and family members to sign autographs and have photos taken.

Instead, players are encouraged to acknowledge their supporters from a distance by waving, giving the thumbs up or with raised arms.

The NBA has announced its season is on hiatus after Utah Jazz All-Star centre Rudy Gobert tested positive to COVID-19, while French Super League club Catalans will play their home match against Leeds on the weekend in a closed stadium.

A set of guidelines was issued to all 16 NRL clubs on Thursday, which also includes restricting access to dressing rooms to players and match-day staff only.

In the memo issued by NRL CEO Todd Greenberg to the clubs, he advised them to take reasonable steps to limit club-organised player contact with community organisations such as hospitals and schools.

He also advised the clubs to take the advice of their chief medical officers on enhanced medical and hygiene initiatives, such as regularly cleaning surfaces in training areas with antiseptic solutions, thorough handwashing, ensuring food preparation is done to the highest levels and preventing the sharing of water bottles.

Greenberg addresses coronavirus threat

"Fundamentally our priority has got to be to protect the health and safety of our players and particularly our fans," Greenberg told 2GB radio on Thursday.

"You won't see players going to the sides of the field and having photos and autographs. It is ultimately to protect the safety of our communities and of course our players.

"If anyone is feeling unwell, you should stay at home, that's simple advice, that's good advice.

"Keep turning up to the events, come to our games and obviously if you can't come to them, they're live on television so you can have a great night watching your footy."

Media will not be permitted in the sheds, while host broadcasters will have access to certain areas only.

The RLPA has been in close contact with the NRL regarding its approach to COVID-19.

"We will continue to collaborate with the NRL to ensure our members remain informed of the collective action that is being taken to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 within the community," an RLPA spokesperson said.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said if fans were worried about attending matches they should stay at home.

"Unless they hear otherwise they should proceed as usual," Berejiklian said. "But I do note the extra advice provided by the [NSW] chief medical officer and that is if you've been overseas and you're unwell you should exclude yourself from those mass gatherings."

NBA and Serie A cases

Gobert's test result was reported shortly prior to the tip-off of Wednesday's game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. The game was cancelled. Gobert was not in the arena.

The NBA has suspended all games following the conclusion of Wednesday's schedule of games until further notice. 

The New Orleans Pelicans-Sacremento Kings game had been set to go ahead until players realised that one of the officiating team, Courtney Kirkland, had been involved in the Jazz's 101-92 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Monday.

Gobert played 32 minutes of that match. The NBA said during this hiatus it would determine its next steps in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.

Juventus defender Daniele Rugani has tested positive for COVID-19 and will undergo a 14-day quarantine, along with teammates and coaching staff with the Italian Serie A championship-winning side.

Rugani, who was on the bench in last weekend's match against Inter Milan, is the first Italian player diagnosed with the virus but German club Hannover 96 has also announced a member of its team had COVID-19.

Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, have also tested positive to coronavirus while on holiday on the Gold Coast.

The Hollywood star posted on Twitter to announce his diagnosis.

Warriors take travel precautions

Warriors players flying from Auckland to Sydney on Thursday for Saturday night's match in Newcastle reported no unusual travel issues but the club is taking no chances.

Each member of the squad has been given an individual medical pack, with anti-bacterial sprays and gels, although the players were not issues masks to wear on their flight from New Zealand, which has not had any new COVID-19 cases for five days .

"We've had our medical team come in, they have spoken to us twice now," Warriors coach Stephem Kearney. "We are taking every precaution that we can, to make sure someone in the group doesn't catch it.

"We will keep our fingers crossed there. I think we only have five cases here in New Zealand and we want to keep it that way. It's important, because if one of us gets it it's going to be a challenge to get him to play [so] it has to be taken seriously."

International travel for Super League clubs has been effected after the French government banned gatherings of more than 1000 people and Catalans were forced to refund tickets for this weekend's match in Perpignan.

Catalans chairman Bernard Guasch said the decision would impact severely on the finances of the Dragons.

"Following the unprecedented decision of the French Minister of Sports, the Dragons' choice was to switch the fixtures. Unfortunately, the Leeds Rhinos club did not accept our request," Gausch said.

"We then proposed to postpone the match and to play it later in the season, midweek or weekend depending on the Cup results of each club. We even offered a financial compensation to Leeds club for their additional travelling costs.

"We strongly regret this decision which will hugely impact the finances of the club with revenues already anticipated in our annual budget.

"Unable to find a solution to choose only 1000 supporters from our 5500 season ticket holders and sponsors, the club has chosen to play behind closed doors."

Storm staff work remotely

In Melbourne, the Storm's neighbours at AAMI Park – AFL clubs Collingwood and Melbourne – are taking steps to protect their players from the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Storm coach Craig Bellamy said it was business as usual for his side for the time being when asked about the virus on Thursday morning.

Collingwood cancelled an open training session with fans on Wednesday, while the Demons have moved their AFL program almost an hour away to Casey Fields as clubs try and stop the disease from reaching their players and coaching staff.

"Some of our staff in the office have been told to work from home if they can as it is the health of our players which is the number one priority," Bellamy said.

"We are certainly taking some precaution ... but it's business as usual in regards to training and everything else."

The AFL has already shifted this year's St Kilda-Port Adelaide game in Shanghai to Melbourne after advice from health authorities.

Self-quarantined Fremantle player Sam Switkowski was cleared of COVID-19 on Tuesday after fears he had contracted the virus from a friend who had recently visited China.

Acknowledgement of Country

The New Zealand Warriors honour the mana of the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa, Australia and the Pacific. We acknowledge the traditional kaitiaki of the lands, elders past and present, their stories, their traditions, their mamae and their mana motuhake.

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