Revealed: NRL bubble bid must past stringent test
The man who led NSW to its first State of Origin series clean sweep has vowed "hysteria" and "fear" won't cloud the facts as the Project Apollo team push to get the NRL back playing by June.
This comes as new figures show it is actually safer for the NRL to return now than when the season was suspended after round two.
Since March 23 the daily percentage increase of new COVID-19 infections has decreased from 22.27% to 2.21% on April 5.
And as the race to restart the competition gets real, Project Apollo team leader Wayne Pearce is confident the NRL will be in a position by Thursday to lock in where teams will be based and whether it is in one location or several.
But in a new twist Pearce also revealed that it would be crucial to house players close enough to laboratories capable of returning coronavirus tests "within a matter of hours, not days".
This could potentially rule out a regional location such as Gladstone that was previously considered one of the leading options.
"Where we are going to play is going to be impacted by a number of factors, one of which is the biosecurity, one is the availability of testing facilities," Pearce explained.
"That is a huge thing that probably hasn't been reported.
"It means places that areas remote from a lab that can do the tests are going to be unlikely to be suitable to house the bubble."
Asked if that ruled out Gladstone or Tangalooma Island Resort, Pearce said: "It doesn't mean the (Tangalooma) island is out because that is only an hour from the middle of Brisbane.
"We are just doing a fair bit of work at the moment looking at the different facilities and laboratories."
Pearce said without hesitation this was "absolutely" the toughest professional challenge he has faced since his playing days.
"The thing is there are so many moving pieces and a lot of stuff that is not within our control, namely the spread of the virus," he added.
"But there is a lot of stuff we can control and that is what we have to work with.
"My philosophy is that I am dealing with the facts.
"There is a lot of opinion out there, there is a lot of hysteria, there is a lot of fear, and that is clouding the facts.
"But if we cut through the fear and deal with the facts then I think we are in a much better position to get the game up and running."
Pearce also believes other industries would be inspired by the NRL's drive to provide a safe environment for the players to return to work.
If this works the NRL will establish a precedent for sports around the world to follow.
"We are looking to create a biosecurity shield around the players and officials and people involved that is going to make sure everyone who goes in there is COVID-19 free," Pearce explained.
"And once you are in there then the risk of infection, providing you keep your biosecurity protocols in place, is very, very low.
"You can't get zero (safety) but you can't get zero driving a car. But you can get it as low as possible.
"That is dealing with the facts.
"It is a costly exercise.
"It is an exercise that requires a commitment from your employees which is our staff and players.
"And if we get buy-in from all the stakeholders then we are going to have a crack."
Pearce said the most important piece of the puzzle was getting the right location/locations bedded down.
After that, they can work out how the competition should be structured and where State of Origin should sit in the season schedule.
"That is the core piece. If we can get that right which, we aim to get right, then the other stuff will fall into place and that can be expedited," he said.
"This is something we have never really faced as a sport or probably as a country."
Originally published as Revealed: Why it is now safer for NRL to return