Storm players brace for Sydney NRL move

Melbourne players are bracing for a temporary relocation to Sydney or Brisbane due to the coronavirus outbreak in Victoria.

Storm officials were on Monday locked down in emergency discussions with the NRL, including the likelihood of shifting this week’s game interstate.

In what was a dramatic day at league HQ, Thursday’s game between Penrith and South Sydney has also been moved due to surface concerns in Campbelltown.

The Panthers-Rabbitohs match will now be played at Kogarah’s Netstrata Jubilee Oval.

Melbourne are scheduled to host the Warriors at AAMI Park the following night, however it appears the fixture is headed elsewhere.

“The NRL and Melbourne Storm are closely monitoring the situation in Victoria in response to the increase in positive COVID-19 tests in recent days,” the Storm said in a statement.

A decision is expected to be made within the next 24 hours.

The development comes after Victoria’s number of coronavirus cases increased by 16 overnight.

The state’s active COVID-19 case numbers are the highest they’ve been in more than two months after six days of double-digit growth.

It was only last week that the Storm had a request for 296 corporate attendees for the Warriors game rejected by the state government.

The AFL round four schedule has yet to be affected, with Victorian clubs set to host games at Marvel Stadium and the MCG this weekend.

But Storm players have begun preparing for an indefinite move out of town.

“We’ve braced for the potential that we might need to relocate and potentially play some of our home games in Queensland or NSW,” prop Christian Welch said.

“It’s still developing at the moment, we’re just waiting to see what happens.”

The Storm would be the second team to temporarily relocate, with the New Zealand-based Warriors also currently staying on the NSW central coast.

They haven’t been back to Auckland since May 3.

“The problems in Australia economically, people are out of jobs and we’re heading into a recession. This is a serious thing,” Welch said.

“If we need to relocate and play some games in another state, we’re more than happy to do that. Every player here is happy to do that.

“And the team we’re playing, the Warriors, the sacrifice they’ve made to leave their families in New Zealand and fly across and stay here for so long, it’s incredible.

“Looking at the issue, it pales in significance compared to some of the real issues Australians are going through every day at the moment.”

NRL players were granted permission to break their coronavirus bubbles on Sunday, allowing them to visit restaurants and cafes.

However given the predicament in Victoria, Storm players have been instructed to avoid potential at-risk areas in the state.

“Everyone’s just trying to be responsible with the protocols we’ve got because you can see the effect,” Welch said.

“If a player does test positive, it makes huge changes across the competition.”





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