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Pearce: Innovations committee will act fast to revamp schedule

An eight-person innovations committee that features some of the greatest minds in the game will be tasked with the challenge of structuring the remainder of the rugby league calendar after holding their first meeting.

ARLC commissioner Wayne Pearce on Wednesday joined Roosters coach Trent Robinson, Raiders CEO Don Furner, RLPA CEO Clint Newton, former politician Troy Grant, NRL chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo, NRL chief corporate affairs officer Liz Deegan and NRL head of football Graham Annesley.

They discussed the early stages of various scenarios being floated ahead of the competition's potential resumption for a best-case scenario on July 1 although the likely restart date will be later in the year.

Pearce, who will head the committee, expects discussions to go on for at least a fortnight before presenting ideas and scenarios to the ARL Commission. 

"The first meeting was to come up with some framework in where we'll be moving forward," Pearce told NRL.com on Wednesday.

"We didn't discuss in any great specifics what the competition could look like because that's more detail that needs to be done.

Raiders CEO Don Furner.
Raiders CEO Don Furner. ©NRL Photos

"But it was about throwing up a whole lot of different scenarios on the table and from the action point out of those was looking to get expertise to drill down in detail in terms of what the competitions could look like and run.

"We need to look at the biosecurity aspect and get experts in that space and also the logistics of each scenario.

"We didn't look at any specific competition structure. We agreed to work towards an NRL start date of July 1.

"We'll have a lot more detail soon and by about week three we'll have a good idea what it's all going to look like."

The committee will then present its recommendations to the ARL Commission.

Among the talk around the innovations includes the possibility of a "wildcard weekend" where the teams that finish ninth and 10th could win an elimination match to make the finals and moving the NRL season to a remote location with players isolated.

"It's pretty much everything open [at the moment]," Pearce said.

"It will definitely be reduced rounds, we know that, but we want as many games in and maintain as much as the premiership, Origins and finals that we can.

"We'll start without crowds but if the government says we change that towards the backend of the season we will have to look at a facility that allows us to give fans that opportunity to return, that's another thing to factor in.

"That's what we're focused on and there's a number of work streams that will be happening now and our next meeting next Thursday where we'll have a much clearer direction as to which direction we'll go down.

Roosters coach Trent Robinson.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"We have different potential dates and structures around that but it's also about factoring in biosecurity measures and the concept of a bubble – how can we put a bubble around the players so that they're not at risk and the community's not at risk?

"Whether that looks like all the players being in one spot or whether the players are in different hubs in different areas and how that all looks."

The Balmain Tigers legend said players need to remain diligent about their personal safety measures and hygiene during the competition hiatus as their team and the entire competition would be affected if players were to contract the coronavirus.

There's got to be a window where players might have to quarantine before the games start, that's detail we haven't got into yet," Pearce said.

"We haven't gone into any detail of the operational aspects yet but it's something we'll be discussing."

Arguably one of the toughest challenges of Pearce's career in his off-field role, the former Kangaroo said it presented an opportunity to explore and create something that had never been taken on before.

"Obviously this situation isn't ideal but I love the game and it's a challenge that could become very rewarding," Pearce said.

"We've got a chance to nail it – a competition that is effective and popular."