Storm set for ‘intense’ homecoming
Melbourne Storm's players and staff will operate under "intense" health and safety guidelines when they return to AAMI Park on Thursday.
Storm's squad of 50 players and coaches returned home on Tuesday night after staying for a week in Albury to bypass Victoria's strict coronavirus rules.
The easing of restrictions means Storm will be allowed back inside their AAMI Park training base.
The Storm players were briefed on the measures that will be in place when they arrive for training Thursday morning.
"I think they've done a great job at trying to make the workplace as safe as possible," Storm forward Christian Welch said.
"We just had a walk-through of how AAMI Park is going to be set up and it's pretty intense.
"There are barricades and clean zones and safe entries, and I think they've done a really great, thorough job at limiting the risk for the players, the squad and in turn the community.
"I think it's really necessary to have these measures in place to stay healthy and to maintain the trust of the community."
The AAMI Park "clean zone" is the blueprint likely to be shared my AFL club Melbourne.
The Demons share the AAMI Park facilities with Storm. The AFL is yet to announce when all teams will be allowed to train together again.
Welch said he and his Storm teammates felt comfortable with the measures in place at AAMI Park ahead of the NRL's May 28 resumption.
"All the doors are going to be locked off," he said.
"We've normally have a key card that will let us in through multiple entrances but they're probably going to base it out of the corporate entrance.
"We'll go through the screening process there, take our dirty shoes off there and then walk into the sheds.
"They've split up the change rooms, obviously with social distancing, so half the squad is there and half the squad's being moved to the game-day lockers elsewhere.
"In the meeting rooms we're spread out and obviously we're training om AAMI Park and not Gosch's Paddock."
Welch is on the cusp of returning to the Storm side after suffering an ACL tear last year. He said he expects to be available for selection in the first game back.
Welch says reverting back to one referee could blow a golden chance to grow the NRL during the coronavirus pandemic.
The NRL is set to resume on May 28, which will be before the AFL and when most of the world's sports remain shut down.
The opportunity to attract new fans - both in non-traditional rugby league areas of Australia and internationally- has never been greater.
Welch said cutting costs by reverting back to the one referee model - which has been floated by the NRL - could affect the quality of the product at the worst possible time.
"If we do get up on May 28, it would be clear water in terms of other sports being played all around the world," Welch said.
It's a really great example for us to showcase rugby league to the world and try to convert other people.
"I think there is a danger there to bring the one referee in when we're not used to it.
"I think it's a bit of an issue to reducing the quality of our game that can be showcased at a time when the AFL and American sports are not up and running."
Welch said he believed the game was hard enough to officiate as it is now.
"I feel pretty strongly about this, I don't really understand why we'd go down to one referee," he said.
"The game is getting quicker and quicker, we're reducing the stoppages, there are scrum clocks, the play the ball speeds are getting quicker and it's becoming more demanding on our referees.
"There's a lot of interpretation and grey area, it's a really tough game to referee and I really feel for them at times.
"When Cameron Smith or another superstar makes an error, they're human like everyone else.
"But when a referee does he gets slammed for it. Personally I'd like to see two referees maintained."
Originally published as Storm set for 'intense' homecoming