The Canberra Times reported today that the prick otherwise known as the Coronavirus had infected the Canberra Raiders playing ranks. Two players have contracted the virus, and a close eye will be on the rest of the squad in the hope that’s as far as it goes.
This is a profoundly depressing situation. People’s lives and livelihoods are at stake. We can only wish them well and hope that the players affected are supported by the health system to get the care they need, and that anything the health system doesn’t provide, the club does. Being sick is one thing, but the pressures that can put on a family or an individual, particularly one set up away from the networks established in home-towns and with families, are substantial. Hopefully the club, and the rugby league community, can help the players affected to manage this as well they can (as they are no doubt supporting the staff already affected). The timing is shitty too. Christmas is hard enough (regardless of whether your with, or away from, family). Having to manage this time with a potentially life threatening illness would suck.
Given the vast majority of Raiders’ players are vaccinated it seems likely that this case will be in someone who has had the jab. This is good news in the sense that it means that there is a greater chance that the case will be minor or asymptomatic, won’t result in hospitalisation, and will require a manageable recovery (rather than a difficult one). If it is vaccinated case I can see the current vaccine hold-outs remaining that way, and that’s a shame, because if anything this should highlight how critical the vaccine can be in reducing the severity of illness. The risk is much greater for unvaccinated players.
Regardless of who has the case, getting better isn’t simple. It’s not just getting rest and getting back to it. While many cases in sportspeople overseas have been asymptomatic or minor, and those players have been largely unaffected in returning to competition or training, there’s been enough cases where players’ conditioning (in particular) has suffered in the medium to long term. This is of course less of a risk for vaccinated players, but it’s not a non-existent one. The club will need to be careful with infected players to ensure they take their time rebuilding their aerobic capacity.
For the club more widely though the short-term impact isn’t dramatic. The club sent everyone home for Christmas when the first cases emerged, and while that seems like a long time, as Coach Stuart noted to the Canberra Times, the players won’t actually miss a dramatic amount of work. Instead, they’ve chosen to essentially bank the good work done so far, and return to training as scheduled on January 5. This of course assumes these cases are the end of it. Here’s hoping.
Unfortunately this appears like something we’ll have to deal with for some time. All of the evidence that is emerging suggests that the current variant (Omicron) is more infectious (thanks Kathy for the correct wording) than previous versions. We’ve seen an explosion of cases in the NBA and the NFL in recent weeks as this variant presents substantial problems to the ongoing competitions. Given the case numbers we are seeing across the country and the world, one suspects this won’t be the last time an NRL team has to deal with an active rona caseload. I guess getting in early at least will mean the Raiders will learn the lessons early, and be prepared when it comes back around again, which seems likely. There’s increasing evidence a booster shot is useful in dealing with emerging strains, but this cluster is here and now. Boosters are for the future, and they’ll be critical in adjusting to 2022.
For now though we extend nothing but the best wishes to the players, their families, and the staff dealing with this right now. It’s an awful problem to have. But unfortunately it’s ours, and it’s here to stay.