This article was first written for and published by NRL.com.
It’s staggering how quickly the world has changed. Many things in life we take for granted have been cancelled.
Health and safety come first but, as a fan, I’m thrilled the NRL is still on and, given how little live sport is on at the moment, it does present a unique opportunity for the sport.
Just over a week ago I was dressed in my Parramatta Eels jersey walking to Bankwest Stadium to enjoy the opening match of the season. COVID-19 was a major talking point, but it wasn’t enough to deter me from going to cheer my team.
A week later and life as we know it has changed. Many of us are now working from home for the foreseeable future, our cities are much quieter and many of us are coming up with unique methods of coping with lockdown.
But for the moment, we still have footy even though round two will be played before empty stadiums.
There has been a lot of discussion about whether rugby league should continue. Many sports across the globe have been suspended, including the NBA and the EPL. Community sport across the country has been halted.
The game’s administrators have been working closely with the clubs, the Rugby League Players Association and the players to make sure every precaution is taken.
As much as I love my footy, the health of our players and the people that travel with our players must be paramount.
I trust in the administration and if a decision has been made to continue the competition, I am sure it has been done with the health of the players as the paramount consideration.
One of the hardest parts of this ongoing situation is so many things that we take for granted have been cancelled or suspended: sporting events, concerts, social gatherings with our friends and families, weddings, even hugs.
These things bring us joy and it’s hard to comprehend a world where we won’t have these things for the next little while.
As a fan, it’s also really hard to come to terms with the fact that I no longer have the opportunity to go and cheer on my team.
So many of us have wacky superstitions about the success of our teams, revolving around sitting in a particular seat or attending certain games. These quirks will be tested in the coming weeks.
But what I think is most important in this situation is we continue to support each other. This is not a cure for the pandemic, but will certainly make it easier to cope with this awful situation.
There will be plenty of people in the rugby league community going through a tough time. Let’s look out for those people, particularly the families of our players who in some cases have been separated due to isolation protocols.
And even though we can’t physically be there to cheer on our teams, there are plenty of other ways to show your support too.
Without revenue from game day, our clubs will suffer.
To those people with memberships who, despite not being able to go to games, are in a position to effectively continue their memberships as a donation to their club, I encourage you to do so.
If you can’t in the current circumstances, think of another way that you can get behind your club. Purchasing merchandise is also an option. Go direct to your club for that too, because no doubt many of them will be backlogged with stock that they would have hoped to sell on game day that is now waiting to be purchased.
If you aren’t in a position to financially support your club, then that’s OK too. Many clubs have come out this week asking their members and fans to send in photos and videos with messages of support for the players. The more ridiculous and fun the better – see how many pieces of merchandise you can squeeze into one photo!
Even though the players will have, at some point on their rugby league journey, played in front of an empty ground, this will no doubt be surreal for them.
Many players take energy from the roar of the crowd, so to hear nothing but the silence from the stands will be very different. To know they have the support of the fans will be important for them as they continue to make sacrifices so they can keep playing.
Keep that sacrifice in mind: Our players love playing footy, but this is uncharted territory for them too. Let’s support them as best we can and hope we all remain as healthy as possible in the weeks to come.