With COVID cases on the rise and the effects being felt to varying degrees by NRL clubs in the final weeks of the regular season, The Daily Telegraph reports the NRL is giving serious consideration to putting bubbles back into place during the finals series.
The NRL has been resistant to the idea after subjecting players to two years of varying conditions that have often taken them away from home and society for the sake of preserving the game.
But they may have no other choice if they want to ensure all players are protected heading into the business end of the competition.
So far this week Wests Tigers interim coach Brett Kimmorley and future coach Tim Sheens have both been ruled out from attending Sunday’s game against the North Queensland Cowboys, while Jake Trbojevic and Andrew Davey will be unable to take the field for Manly against St George Illawarra this week.
Canterbury Bulldogs fullback Jake Averillo has also been ruled out of their game against the Gold Coast after testing positive.
The slowly increasing number of affected players adds to a list that had an impact on the 2022 Origin series, with Jack Wighton, Cameron Munster, Nicho Hynes and Murray Taulagi all ruled out at various points of the series, prompting calls from Maroons great Darren Lockyer for the bubble to be reinstated.
Reports indicate some clubs have already spoken with senior players to see if they would be receptive to the idea of tighter restrictions with a premiership on the line, and clubs have already advised players not to travel in large groups to mitigate the chances of the virus spreading.
Players have also been told to wear masks while indoors and have also been advised to avoid large crowds.
It’s also been reported that football managers from each club were recently briefed on the possible impacts of the next ‘wave’ of coronavirus by NRL biosecurity expert David Heslop.
Case numbers in Australia have grown exponentially this winter. At the start of June, New South Wales was reporting 5,000 new cases per day. That number has since tripled, with over 15,000 cases reported as recently as July 19. Queensland has seen a comparable rise in its positive case numbers.