Unlikely suspects caught up in NRL Covid drama

Two NRL match officials have been caught up in a Covid-19 scare, forcing the league to make last minute changes to Saturday night’s game between the Bulldogs and Roosters.

The referees have been classified as possible casual contacts of a Covid-19 case after attending an exposure site while shopping this week.

Both are awaiting the results of Covid-19 tests.

As a precaution, Grant Atkins, Belinda Sharpe and Liam Kennedy have been relieved of their duties for Saturday night’s game.

Adam Gee, Peter Gough and David Munro, the officials who oversaw Thursday night’s clash between the Raiders and Sea Eagles, will take their place.

Gee, Gough and Munro did not train with the referees squad on Thursday or Friday so have not come into contact with those who attended the exposure site.

The league said the last-minute change was made “as an abundance of caution”.

Like NRL players and coaching staff, onfield match officials are subject to the league’s Level 4 Biosecurity Protocols, meaning they are unable to leave their homes other than for games, training or an essential reason.

The match officials are not thought to have breached the NSW Government’s health orders nor the NRL’s directives.

Peter V’landys and the NRL are exploring their options as Sydney continues to report instances of community Covid-19 transmission. Picture: Jonathan NgSource:News Corp Australia

The news comes as the NRL contemplates relocating the competition amid Sydney’s Covid-19 outbreak.

“At the moment we are doing our utmost to make it the least inconvenience for the players and their families,” ARLC Chairman Peter V’landys told News Corp on Friday.

“However, if it gets any worse we may have to look at relocations.

“And we have already planned for that contingency.

“We always work on the data, and if we ever thought the data was going to get worse we have contingencies in place.”

The league is exploring various options, including moving the competition to Queensland, Victoria, regional NSW or “anywhere where the cases aren’t as high”.

New South Wales reported 50 locally acquired cases of Covid-19 on Saturday, the highest total since the latest outbreak began.

The breaches incurred by a number of NRL players since the beginning of the outbreak could jeopardise the league’s hopes of relocating interstate.

Most recently, South Sydney Rabbitohs forward Jai Arrow was fined $35,000 and suspended for two games for inviting an unauthorised female visitor into the Queensland Maroons bubble.

Arrow’s breach came after 13 Dragons players were fined a total of $305,000 for holding an unsanctioned party last weekend.

Paul Vaughan, the former Origin star who hosted the party, had is Dragons contract torn up and his wallet relieved of $50,000 by the NRL following the incident.

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