Canterbury interim coach Mick Potter has warned every NRL club could be affected by COVID-19 outbreaks unless the league re-thinks its approach on how it manages the virus.
Potter missed the Bulldogs’ last game before the bye after testing positive and the club will be without centre Aaron Schoupp against South Sydney on Sunday after he too came down with the virus.
The Bulldogs believe Schoupp contracted the virus away from the club during the bye and as of yet it has not spread to any of his teammates.
But in the past week alone rival players Nicho Hynes, Toby Rudolf, Cameron Munster, Murray Taulagi and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak have alll come down with COVID-19, Taulagi and Munsters’ diagnoses rubbing them out of Queensland’s 17 for the State of Origin decider.
Warriors interim coach Stacey Jones is in serious doubt for Friday’s clash with Parramatta after testing positive as well.
Earlier this week, NSW Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant warned the Omicron BA4 and BA5 subvariants were likely to spread to those who had already been infected or vaccinated, leading to a rise in case numbers.
In all states or territories with NRL teams those who test positive must isolate for a minimum of seven days and without re-implementing the COVID-19 biosecurity bubbles that were scrapped this season, clubs are vulnerable to outbreaks.
Potter said every NRL club could be decimated through winter.
“It is a concern,” he said.
“If you have to have seven days in quarantine, it’s going to affect every team, that’s if it continues like it is.”
As of Thursday, 93 first-grade players are listed in the NRL’s casualty ward and Potter said COVID-19 outbreaks could push clubs with depleted rosters over the edge.
“If there’s a spate in the team, I don’t think the teams have the resources if there are seven, eight or nine bouts of COVID in the one week,” Potter said.
“If you’ve already got injuries, which we have, it certainly would test us to the wire.”
Potter said the Bulldogs would be reminding their players to adhere to social distancing protocols and stay COVID safe.
“We’ll make that point again today about just being wary of where you’re socialising,” he said.
“In this environment with the way the rules are, you have to be cautious.”