BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs reacts during the round 2 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on March 20, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)
BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 20: Latrell Mitchell of the Rabbitohs reacts during the round 2 NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on March 20, 2020 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Craddock: Coronavirus trio the best and worst thing for NRL

It might just be most compelling fare of the sporting year - not the return of rugby league on May 28 but the circus which will precede it.

Board room disputes over broadcast rights, confusion over pay cuts, social distancing blow-ups, big teams taking over small towns, more confusion over whether a player can stop at Bunnings on the way home from training.

Honest mistakes, sneaky rendezvous', heavy fines, isolation-induced madness … who knows what the next 24 days will bring after the teams reassemble for their "new world order'' briefing on Monday?

The only thing missing will be the juggler and the bearded lady.

At the end of it, on May 28, we will have a game of football right smack in the middle of an empty stadium in, errr, somewhere, featuring, errr, somebody.

That small matter of draws and venues is still a work in progress.

The storm of anger which engulfed Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell and Nathan Cleary after they broke social distancing rules was the worst thing that happened to rugby league last week but the best thing that happened to it for the next 24 days.

Mitchell\s slip up has shown how high the stakes have become. AAP Image/Darren England.
Mitchell\s slip up has shown how high the stakes have become. AAP Image/Darren England.

Sometimes a sport needs poster boys for stupidity and suddenly everyone accepts there can be no dumb excuses.

Nothing publishes the perils of a new rule better than someone breaking it.

Suddenly everyone is on notice. Better to happen last week than this week.

A wet lettuce may have been used to punish those three boofheads but a sledgehammer is waiting for the next offender.

Rugby league is the bushfire that never stops burning.

It's why we whinge about it non-stop but deep, deep down it's why we love it as well.

For all the untied threads - and even the players asked last week during a hook-up-up "are you sure you don't want to put the date back?'' - rugby league seemingly will land its heart's desire with a May 28 comeback.

Public opinion has been divided on whether its course is the work of cavaliers or cowboys, and the key ingredient is diligence or desperation.

The truth is all of these factors are at play.

You can put all the social distancing measures you like in play but a scrum is a scrum and there is no other way of 

The game cannot afford any more Cleary-like slip ups.
The game cannot afford any more Cleary-like slip ups.

playing it than to have 12 human oak trees tightly bound and sweating and slobbering over each other.

Rugby league players return to training this week are banned from tackling each other. Yet on May 28 it's open slater. It sounds weird. It is weird.

Rugby league, like all sports, has already witnessed some almost comical exchanges in the COVID-19 era including officials bursting onto the field at the end of Intrust Super Cup games before the shutdown screaming "DON'T SHAKE HANDS'' as if such measures would make any difference to a player who had just made 30 tackles and packed in 15 scrums.

Rugby league is a sport full of risk takers and they have played a dogged, high risk, game … with governments, players, television broadcasters … everyone.

Senior rugby league officials have selectively leaked key events even before they were signed off on to put pressure on the parties involved to toe the line and make them look the bad boys if they don't play along.

Players were made to look money hungry for being cautious about training on Monday and their 20 per cent pay cuts but, in their defence, they were within their rights to many questions which remain unanswered.

Rugby league's new world is upon us … the only certainty is that the bushfire will continue to burn.

Originally published as Coronavirus trio are the best and worst thing for NRL



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