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‘We ran around trying not to touch anything’: Waratahs return to new world

Moving further down the maze was an area for strapping and preparation for training, which was the team’s first hit-out together since Super Rugby stopped in mid-March due to coronavirus.

There was a buzz about the morning but as much as everyone wanted to give their mate a big hug, they were unable to.

Joey Walton wipes down a bench.

Joey Walton wipes down a bench.Credit:Julius Dimataga/NSW Rugby

Groups split up and participated in field sprint sessions, recovery down the far end near the team room where they eat, as well as gym sessions. But it wasn’t your ordinary kind of gym outing as Simmons learnt.

“Every time you lift, you wipe it down,” he said. “Lift, wipe it down. It was quite a process. We did a bit of a field session and ran around and tried to get some sort of footy incorporated into it as much as we could without touching anything. You’re trying to get guys back together and they’re so used to running into each other. The fact no one is there in front of you is an odd feeling.”

Once finished, it was straight out another door and back home.

In the two months since the Waratahs last mingled, the Australian rugby landscape has changed significantly. RA chief executive Raelene Castle exited stage left after a tumultuous few weeks, which began with tense negotiations over player pay cuts. Salaries have been reduced by an average of 60 per cent over a six-month period and, while a tough pill to swallow, Simmons says it has to be kept in context.

Hygiene was a top priority on Tuesday morning.

Hygiene was a top priority on Tuesday morning. Credit:Julius Dimataga/NSW Rugby

“It was quite daunting to see where the state of the game was,” Simmons said. “Every code is having their own struggles in terms of the COVID situation and not being able to play games and access to everything they thought they had.

“Globally we’re all doing it tough. It’s not easy. I don’t think anyone is living a normal life right now.

“Like all the ads say, we’re all in this together. You can sit here and complain … that’s falling on deaf ears. Everyone is in the same boat aren’t they?

“As soon as we can get back on TV, the better.”

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Some enjoyed a “break” from the daily grind but Simmons certainly didn’t. He said he would have struggled even more in his younger days to keep motivated.

A newborn baby and being away from Sydney in northern NSW did help Simmons, who cannot wait for the day rugby finally returns, potentially as early as July 4.

“I was speaking to a friend the other day and he said: ‘I’d watch a game of badminton right now’,” Simmons said. “Anything live and isn’t a replay would be great.”

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