The National Rugby League (NRL) took the drastic measure to suspend the 2020 season on Monday 23 March due to the COVID-19 health crisis.
They followed the AFL, who on Sunday announced their season would be suspended until at least 31 May.
Australian Rugby League chairman Peter V’landys said the call was made because they could “no longer guarantee player safety because of the rapid rate of infection”, leaving them with “simply no other option”.
V’landys described this unprecedented scenario as a “dark day in our game’s history”, saying it is the “biggest financial crisis in the game’s history”.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the NRL has never faced a challenge like this, suggesting there will be a “significant” financial impact on the code.
The Canberra Raiders CEO Don Furner said in a statement released shortly after the decision was announced, that the club supports the decision, despite being “disappointed with the outcome”.
“We agree with the NRL that the health and wellbeing of our players and staff remains paramount during these tough times,” Furner said.
Raiders head coach Ricky Stuart added that this is not only a hard time for rugby league, but for all of society.
“Rugby league has bounced back from many challenges before and I know the united approach from the clubs and game will see the game return when we can,” he said.
With no games being played, the code is effectively breaching the contract of their $1.8 billion broadcast deal. It’s currently unknown what money, if any, they will receive from the agreement.
The nine NRL clubs who are financially tied to leagues clubs, which includes the Canberra Raiders, have had that revenue stream shut off due to government public health sanctions.
Due to the multifaceted financial uncertainty surrounding the NRL’s future, there is a real fear that the future of several clubs could be in doubt.
NRL journalist Paul Kent said on Fox League’s Sunday Night with Matty Johns there’s a chance the competition is reduced to just 10 teams next year.
Despite this, V’landys refused to rule out the NRL coming back this year, telling Fox League’s NRL 360 their primary objective is to get the game back on as quickly as possible.
All clubs were informed by the NRL on Tuesday 24 March that head office is currently looking into resuming the competition as early as June, and as late as 1 September.
A 1 September kick-off would see shortened 15-game season in which every team plays off once, with a grand final played by 21 December.