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A new hope: What's wrong with aiming for May 28 return?

So what's wrong with giving a little hope?

Why can't sports lovers – rugby league in this case primarily – have a date to aim for making its return?

Every single season, NRL supporters hope for a premiership, a top-four berth, just making the eight is reason for jubilation for some long-suffering fan bases.

The May 28 restart date proposed by the ARL Commission after being nominated by the Project Apollo brains trust certainly has stirred the pot.

Everyone seems to have forgotten the caveats placed on it – the most important being clearance from health and biosecurity experts, plus the nod from governments manning their borders like we were back in 1961 … the year the Berlin Wall went up.

I've never met ARL chairman Peter V'landys. Never spoken to him. But what I can tell you is I like his style. I like the way he put the May 28 date out there to give us all something to work towards.

Cowboys and Broncos supporters at the Johnathan Thurston statue at the new Queensland Country Bank Stadium in round one.
Cowboys and Broncos supporters at the Johnathan Thurston statue at the new Queensland Country Bank Stadium in round one. ©NRL Photos

I don't like fence-sitting unless I truly can't make up my mind after weighing up pros and cons.

On the topic of May 28 for the most part I can only see pros:

  • hearing the referee's whistle blow time-on,
  • the crunch and slap of a solid tackle,
  • the on-field chatter and set-play calls,
  • the disagreement with penalties given or not given,
  • the sweeping back-line move with the cut-out pass or double pump putting someone in the clear,
  • the winger completely airborne but about to plant the ball around the corner post, the sideline conversion,
  • the grubber, the banana-kick, the high swirling bombs,
  • the prop breaking through defenders and then offloading,
  • the second-rower who thinks he is the five-eighth (and maybe should be),
  • the scoreboard being neck-and-neck,
  • and even the anticipation of how many sentences you can get out of Wayne Bennett in the post-match media conference.

All of that should have a crowd to witness it because fans bring the best quips, banners, and banter – and at some stage it will.

But if that's not available by May 28 then that's OK too, because every one of my pros can be enjoyed with or without the fans in the stands until they come back.

I think we're all concerned for the Warriors, the Storm, Cowboys, Broncos and Titans – the clubs that have to cross borders. I don't want them quarantined for some indefinite period.

Why can't we just keep testing players, coaches, trainers, club and NRL officials (and even the media too) each week, twice a week, whatever you like? That along with all the other distancing and sanitising measures will help keep a constant check on COVID-19.

Since the May 28 date was announced, I don't know about you but I've been bombarded by people saying "How dare the NRL say they're coming back?", when I'm sure rugby union, soccer, AFL fans secretly would love to have the same sort of hope.

The AFL says it might come back in June – sheesh, that won't be too long after the NRL but still rugby league is having fingers pointed at it.

Are fans of other codes just a weeny bit jealous wishing their governing body could also raise its sword and say "Charge!"?

And if May 28 has to dissolve into June 4, 11, 18, 25 or July then that's OK too. The fight to get back doesn't stop because of how many rounds can or can't be squeezed into what's left of 2020.

Roosters and Wests Tigers fans peer over the fence at Leichhardt Oval in round two.
Roosters and Wests Tigers fans peer over the fence at Leichhardt Oval in round two. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

It will be moved back because of medical advice and what the case numbers are showing.

Rugby league just wants to spread its magic once again.

Like the line from the publisher Gloria to author Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) at the end of the movie, Romancing the Stone: "Joanie, you are now a hopeless romantic."

To which Turner replies: "Hopeful … hopeful romantic."


The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

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