A sullen eeriness was in the air as Sydney’s nine NRL clubs, as well as Canberra, Newcastle and the Warriors, boarded flights bound for Queensland today.
But amid the NRL’s extraordinary ploy to keep the competition alive during Sydney’s disastrous COVID-19 situation, Rabbitohs speedster Alex Johnston found time for some hilarious antics.
“You’re my baby; of course I was going to take you,” Johnston said in a TikTok video while pretending to look into a cradle.
But when the camera gave his followers a look at what an adoring Johnston was actually staring down at, they saw his PlayStation set sitting smug in his bag.
While the AFL last year and this year have had to enforce mass relocations of clubs into interstate hubs, this is the first time the NRL has had to take the drastic measure.
The Warriors have made the greatest sacrifices of the lot during the COVID-19 pandemic. The New Zealand club had been based on the Central Coast for more than a year and are now being made to settle in south-east Queensland.
As Warriors winger Dallin Watene-Zelezniak set off north, he left behind his pregnant wife, who’s due to give birth on Sunday.
“People out there have got to understand that these are the kind of sacrifices people are making,” said Warriors teammate Chad Townsend on Nine News.
Manly hooker Lachlan Croker gave an insight into the mindsets of the players.
“It’s crazy,” Croker said.
“We obviously don’t know what we’re stepping into, don’t know what’s going to happen and how long we’re going to be there for.”
Manly coach Des Hasler added: “It’s been a huge effort but one that, for the game, is a real achievement.”
All 12 relocated clubs are now based in hubs across Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys says they’ll be in those hubs for at least four weeks.
The first two games of Round 18 – Titans-Eels and Sea Eagles-Dragons – will be held at Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.
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