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Bursting the bubble: NRL set to free players and staff from isolation

Under the NRL’s revised protocols, players are expected to be allowed to attend cafes and restaurants, and exercise with family members who have abided by the code’s policy.

The NRL is aware players are beginning to get stir-crazy, especially in recent weeks as state governments loosen their positions.

NRL interim chief executive Andrew Abdo had a phone hook-up with several of the game’s senior players last week, and will now work with all the necessary stakeholders to have the rules revised by Monday, June 22. The NRL will work with its biosecurity expert before presenting an application to government.

Wane in frame

England coach Shaun Wane has been mentioned in and around a number of potential jobs in recent years, but talk of him linking with the Bulldogs next season won’t go away.

This column called Wane in England during the week to see if there was any truth to suggestions the Bulldogs were looking to build a British empire by adding him and John Bateman to the signing of Wigan’s Luke Thompson.

Wane, who boasts a 67 per cent winning percentage during his seven Super League seasons with Wigan from 2012 to 2018, insists he won’t entertain taking on an NRL contract until he has spoken to England officials. However, the 55-year-old couldn’t hide his desire to test himself in the world’s premier rugby league competition.

England coach Shaun Wane.

England coach Shaun Wane.Credit:Matthew Lewis

“I’m a massive NRL fan,” Wane said. “I’ve watched it from the ’80s growing up and it is a dream of mine to one day coach over there. I’d love to coach and I know I can make a difference to a team. But at the minute I’m very happy to coach my country. I’m very, very patriotic and I’m looking forward to the World Cup next year.

“To be honest, I’ve got the upmost respect for our CEO Ralph Rimmer, and it’s never been mentioned between me and him, about me coaching in the NRL. I’m very happy coaching England, but it’s a long time before I’m going to be coaching a team with the Ashes called off leading into the next World Cup.

“I’m not sure what’s going to happen or how it would work, but I would never embarrass him by saying I would come to the NRL. I would need to speak to Ralph first. My name gets mentioned because people know my desire to coach over there, but I’ve never had a call or a solid offer. It’s up to the people in power over there to take a punt on an Englishman. I’m confident that I can make a difference to a team over there.”

Wane, who has been in regular contact with Australian-based Englishmen since being appointed as Wayne Bennett’s successor, is due to arrive in Sydney in October for a two-month visit during the finals and State of Origin series. The Ashes, which was meant to be played in England this year, has been postponed until 2022 due to the impact of COVID-19.

Take the Bateman

The Bulldogs have been preoccupied this week getting Luke Thompson over from England, but they’ll turn their attention back to his countryman now that deal has been struck for him to join the club this season.

The Bulldogs have told Bateman’s manager they are willing to offer him a three-year deal worth about $2.2 million to $2.3m. It’s a little bit less than the four-year deal worth around $800,000 he has been chasing. If the Bulldogs don’t hear back soon, expect the club to put a deadline on him, or pull out altogether.

Slice of Origin

The NRL is forging ahead with plans to lock in venues for this year’s November State of Origin series, with the governing body looking to play the game’s showpiece event in front of full stadiums in three different states.

Maroons coach Kevin Walters and Blues coach Brad Fittler outside Adelaide Oval at the State of Origin series launch earlier in the year.

Maroons coach Kevin Walters and Blues coach Brad Fittler outside Adelaide Oval at the State of Origin series launch earlier in the year.Credit:Getty

The opening game of this year’s series, originally scheduled for June 3, was meant to be played in Adelaide for the first time.

The South Australian government has indicated it still wants to host a game this year, however the NRL has also attracted interest from other states that want a piece of the action.

All about Arthur

Parramatta are yet to open contract extension talks with coach Brad Arthur, but it appears only a matter of time after he helped guide the Eels to their first 5-0 start to a season since 1986. The Eels have a massive fortnight ahead with games against last year’s two grand finalists, the Roosters and Raiders, which will provide a genuine gauge of the club’s premiership credentials.

Brad Arthur takes in the atmosphere on the touchline towards the end of last year's semi final win against Brisbane.

Brad Arthur takes in the atmosphere on the touchline towards the end of last year’s semi final win against Brisbane.Credit:NRL Photos

With a number of coaches under pressure to retain their jobs, the Eels could do worse than secure Arthur’s services long term. He is off contract at the end of next year and has built a roster sure to be challenging for a title for the next three or four seasons.

Delay for agents

The window for agent accreditation has been postponed from April until October as a result of the COVID-19 situation. It’s why Channel Nine commentator Phil Gould and renowned player mentor Joe Wehbe, who is now representing James Tedesco, haven’t been able to apply to become accredited agents.

Bulldog appeals

Corey Harawira-Naera has appealed the NRL’s indefinite suspension, with three clubs monitoring the situation in the hope of adding the back-rower to their roster this year.

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Harawira-Naera and Jayden Okunbor had their contracts terminated by the Bulldogs earlier in the year for their involvement in the Port Macquarie schoolgirl sex scandal. Harawira-Naera’s talent cannot be denied, but the NRL won’t be rushing out the red carpet should he fail in his appeal.

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