Gareth Ellis - The ‘close contacts’ Covid rules need to change - or we’ll lose more matches

WITH the number of games being cancelled for Covid reasons, I think it has to be time to review the ‘close contacts’ policy for rugby league.

No go: The Hull derby has yet to be played this season due to Covid postponments and Gareth Ellis is pressing for a change in the ‘close contacts’ rules. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe
No go: The Hull derby has yet to be played this season due to Covid postponments and Gareth Ellis is pressing for a change in the ‘close contacts’ rules. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe

That is the issue. At Hull FC probably less than half of our players unavailable due to Covid have tested positive. The rest are close contacts. It’s similar elsewhere.

Given how many games we have still got to play, I just don’t see how the close contact rule can continue as it is.

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There will be games off every week. Not just one either; with clubs scheduled to play twice per week it will be two games we lose.

There was 54,000 cases on Saturday in positive tests and that will only go up from Monday with ‘Freedom Day’, society going back to ‘normal’ and mixing more.

Let’s face it, people will: they are ready for it. Most people will have had the option now of being jabbed at least once - many have been double jabbed - so what more can you do moving forward other than carrying on with these rules forever?

I understand that if you have symptoms, don’t come training, don’t come in, isolate for ten days if that’s the period needed.

We get tested twice per week at the moment but, again, you could test negative one day, train for the next couple of days, get it and pass it on before you get tested again the following day.

Close call: The Featherstone Rovers v York City Knights AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Final was in doubt up to Saturday due to Covid issues in both camps. Picture Bruce Rollinson

I’m not sure if we gain anything from testing but if it’s to be done as a precaution, fair enough. You might find people who have it who are not showing symptoms and - if positive - you can get them away from your training ground as quickly as possible.

But I’ve seen some close contacts that have seen players have to go into isolation and you are talking three seconds in a tackle in training where someone has got in a bit of a wrestle.

I don’t think any who have been told to isolate have actually since tested positive. I just can’t see how we can’t fall in line with the rest of society.

Unless we go to the other extreme like they are doing in the NRL - moving people into resorts with their families to the tune of $15m per month. But that extreme is never going to happen in this country. It’s just not feasible.

Disruption: Castleford's preparations for the Challenge Cup final were blighted by Covid and injury issues in both their camp and opposition teams. Picture Bruce Rollinson

So I do think the only other way is to flip it the other way and say we have to fall in line with the rest of the country: follow the rules that way. If you have symptoms, you flag them up and isolate and then get tested. From Monday, they are talking about 100,000 cases per day, half a million people getting pinged on the track and trace and that will only go up.

If we are not going to adjust our rules in line with the general public, there will be games off every week until the end of the season.

Close contacts, ultimately, is the key. If someone has it, they have it and, like anything contagious, you do not want it flying around the training ground or anywhere for that matter.

Let’s be honest, you would like to think the majority of rugby players are fit an healthy. And I’ve sort of accepted - especially after Monday - that I am going to get it.

It’s a bit like flu I suppose where there’s an element every winter you think you’re going to catch a cold and a flu bug and you have to wear it for a few days and get over it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know it has killed a lot of people and a lot of families have been affected by it but there is a point now where we have just got to think ahead.

From a rugby point of view - which is my viewpoint - I do not see why we can’t alter rules to allow this. For the integrity of the competition, it just doesn’t seem feasible to carry on this way.

If you ask most players they will accept they would be happy to fall in line. There was some fear last year not necessarily about them getting it but who they could spread it to whereas now most of my family are double vaccinated and even they are saying where does it end?