NSW take no COVID risk, cancel Origin camp

Troy Whittaker |

The NSWRL has delayed preparations to defend the State of Origin shield after cancelling next month’s Blues pre-season camp due to COVID-19.

NSW coach Brad Fittler had intended to meet with 30 NRL players at the NSWRL Centre of Excellence at Sydney Olympic Park on February 3, to lay the foundations for the 2022 series against Queensland.

However, it was deemed too risky to proceed considering the threat of COVID-19, which has already caused major disrupts during NRL pre-season training for most clubs.

“NSWRL has shown an abundance of caution given the current COVID volatile environment,” Fittler said on Wednesday.

“Player safety comes first and given the players will be coming from a number of different clubs, we believe this is the most responsible decision to make for all concerned.”

The decision — some five months before the Origin series kicks off in Sydney on June 8 — comes amid clubs reportedly expressing concerns about players taking part in next month’s All Stars match.

With coronavirus cases resulting in training setbacks, there have been queries as to whether players will be physically ready for the CommBank Stadium clash on February 12.

The Indigenous and Maori squads traditionally immerse themselves in the community in the lead-up to the special fixture with a focus on culture.

According to a Fairfax media report, the NRL and club officials will discuss health and safety protocols for players involved in the All Stars match during a phone hook-up on Friday.