NRL insist they're working with government

NSW health minister Brad Hazzard was not consulted before the planned restart of the NRL season.
NSW health minister Brad Hazzard was not consulted before the planned restart of the NRL season.

The NRL insist they have had constant contact with the NSW Government over their proposed return, despite health minister Brad Hazzard claiming he hadn't heard from them.

Hazzard revealed on Friday he hadn't spoken to NRL officials since the competition was called off due to coronavirus, and hadn't heard from them about their May 28 return.

It came just hours before Australia's deputy chief medical officer Professor Paul Kelly also urged the game to be mindful of its older coaches.

Kelly singled out South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett, 70, who falls into a high-risk age group that should be staying at home and self-isolating.

Kelly also questioned if May would be the correct time for the league to resume, and said it would only be able to do so with the permission of the relevant states.

While Hazzard said he was open to a conversation about the game resuming in NSW, he insisted he hadn't spoken to the NRL for a month.

"The NRL came to see me about a month, or five weeks, ago. There have been no further discussions," Hazzard said on Friday.

"The only meeting I've had that I can tell you about is around about a month ago, with Todd Greenberg and Peter V'landys to talk about the issue.

"But that was before they actually made a decision to shut the game down."

However the NRL has told AAP while they hadn't spoken to Hazzard directly, they had been in almost daily communication with the NSW government.

"The NRL has been in constant contact with Federal and State Governments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic including this week, and will continue to work closely with government in the weeks ahead," an NRL spokesman said.

It's also understood Hazzard's office had asked the NRL to liaise with the premier's and sport minister's office about their return.

The NRL have former NSW deputy premier Troy Grant on their planning panel, and have been generally positive of the government's efforts to limit the spread of the virus.

ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce also claimed on Thursday state government were happy for players to train and play as long as public health guidelines were adhered too.

Hazzard also admitted that there are wellbeing benefits to having sport safely return for people during the health crisis.

Likewise, Kelly encouraged sports to begin planning their path out of the crisis, and noted the NRL's closed-door plans with players isolating from society.

But he said they had to remember their social responsibilities in the process, and that one person could lead to 400 other cases in a month.

"They're generally very fit young men and women, so they - they themselves are not at high risk," Kelly said.

"For them, it may not be a big problem. There's other people around the teams, Wayne Bennett is in his 70s, he would be in a vulnerable group.

"Whether May is the time (for sports to return) will remain to be seen and definitely they'll need to get some permission to do that."

Australian Associated Press