The Canberra Raiders decided to end 2021 with the most typical of headlines. A coronavirus case, a team in isolation, and the likely abandoning of training for the rest of the year.
The Raiders announced the information Thursday morning that a member of the training staff had caught the case. They’ve doing all the right things; following the appropriate protocols, and working with ACT Health to ensure they can return to training safely at some point in the future.
My first thought goes out to whomever caught the case. They’re likely vaccinated, which will mean the case is less severe than it otherwise would have been, but this does not mean it’s fun and games. Anything that messes with your respiratory system is about as fun as watching the six-again moment on repeat. Messing around with that at Christmas can make a tough time of the year ever tougher. Please be safe good person.
There is a cost here for the club of course. With so much emphasis in the pre-Christmas training period on fitness, it’s hardly ideal to suddenly to have to interrupt training plans for unscheduled rest. Being this close to Christmas will test players desire to train alone (why do that strength work when you can hang with the fams?). It’s just an unfortunate matter and unlucky timing. However, they’ve shown resilience in the past when off-season training has been interrupted (remember the smoke haze of early 2020? It seems multiple lifetimes ago). This hopefully won’t be a big break, so one hopes the impact on fitness levels is minimal.
There’s also the risk of players being exposed to the virus. Thankfully so many are vaccinated. I worry about the “big four” that hadn’t – though I have no idea if these are all resolved (the club had indicated that were hoping all players would be vaccinated for the season). It’s been suggested on ABC that the entire club is isolating, presumably at the advice of ACT Health, and I hope this quick action means this doesn’t turn into much of a cluster. As we’ve seen in overseas sports, players returning from a coronavirus case have taken longer than most expect to find their aerobic fitness. Given the emphasis in the current version of rugby league, this means recovering from ‘rona is likely the first part of the battle. We may see these players spending a longer time in reggies building their match fitness before coming back to first grade than we are used to.
Given how virulent corona is in our community these days it seems almost inevitable, so this may be something we’ll just have to get used to in both football and life. Given the NRL has an incredibly high level of vaccination (even higher than much of the communities they are based in), it likely means the impact won’t be as severe. But it will still exist, and we’ll have to get used to possible interruptions, game postponements and whatnot. The NRL, and the Raiders, will need to be prepared for something like this to happen again. So far it seems they are.