Hull FC not to blame for coronavirus outbreak, and where’s the compassion from RFL and Super League - Gareth Ellis

It’s been a strange week. We finally thought our season was underway after lockdown.

Testing time: HUll FC in action against Salford, before six players tested positive for coronavirus. (Picture: SWPix.com)

We trained like normal on Monday. Small groups with staggered starts for rehab after Sunday’s game.

It wasn’t until late on Tuesday night when I got a message from Andy Last to explain some of the boys had tested positive for coronavirus.

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We were stood down immediately, the club reacted very quickly and professionally, as they have done throughout the last few months of Covid. I can’t fault them. I remember reading it and thinking ‘This can’t be for real. This can’t be happening the first week in for us.’

Hull FC's player Gareth Ellis (Picture: PA)

I rang around a few of the lads to see what was going on and it started to dribble through in the player’s WhatsApp group who’d tested positive. Your first thoughts are you hope everyone is ok. But then I started to think about what I’d been doing over the weekend. I’d been to see my mum and dad. They’re not young people anymore. I did start worrying about them.

I didn’t really sleep that night. I was almost track and tracing in my own mind who I might need to tell.

We’d been tested on Monday but – after Tuesday’s news – a lot of the boys then went to the drive-thru testing centres which had been advised by the club, off their own back.

You want to know. A lot of the players went on Wednesday in Hull, I went to the one in York, my wife did as well just in case.

Hull FC's Andre Savelio is tackled by Salford's Chris Atkin in last week's game (Picture: SWPix.com)

Fortunately, for us, our tests came back negative.

That reassured me a bit – two negatives – but you’re still not out of the woods so you’re still on tenterhooks. We got the information back to the club before the official tests which I think helped.

Our CEO and medical guys had been working into the early hours to try and work out what may have happened and who might be involved to limit it to as few people as possible.

We were officially tested again on Friday and fortunately I got another negative, as did most of the boys. A couple of others weren’t so lucky.

Hull FC's Manu Ma'u is tackled by Salford's Dan Sarginson. (PIcture: SWPix.com)

Yet reading social media there’s almost a blame game going on about who’s at fault.

That seems to be the culture now, it is guilty until proven innocent. Without anyone knowing the facts, including the players at the time, we were reading theories about which players it was, someone must have broken the rules or the club hadn’t done enough. That couldn’t be further from the truth.

The reality is we are in the middle of a global pandemic, millions of people around the world have contracted the virus. Anyone could have got it.

This isn’t about blaming people, it is time to support the people who have it and their families and learn from it moving forward to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again, as difficult as that is clearly going to be.

Our sport often pulls together in times like these. Fair play to our city rivals Hull KR for their public well wishes and the players and clubs who have been in touch. I am a bit surprised we still haven’t had any sort of well wishes from the powers that be at RFL or Super League, particularly for the positive lads. A few of the lads have made comments about that.

I just hope everyone is going to be ok, thankfully I think we have very few symptoms and hopefully they’ll make a quick recovery.

I’ve heard the theory that it may have come from a player after their poorly baby was taken into hospital. I said to my wife if that happened to us, I’d do exactly the same. In fact, I was there just a couple of weeks ago to get my eye fixed up with some stitches, these things happen and it could have been anyone of us.

Everyone is trying to get back to some normality but with that comes an element of risk, whether we’re opening pubs and restaurants or playing rugby. If we want to eliminate all the risk we should all shut up shop and just stay at home.

Our club have been fantastic with all of that. Since day one we were sat down for an hour-long zoom call explaining everything we had to do and we got a pack emailed to us with loads of info in. When we arrived back at the training ground it was quite different from the norm. One-way systems everywhere, medical rooms relocated, santisation points everywhere, the players all given masks, meetings outside, training in small groups – even down to the detail of where and how we should park.

Training has been very different too with only one session per day and often in very small groups. We don’t have meals or showers at the training ground. We are constantly spraying down the gym with special anti-bacterial sprayers and all our staff have got the different types of PPE, it has been strange but I guess that is the new normal.

I was certainly re-assured when we returned to training and it must have been reassuring for the club this week when they were told by the authorities that their precautions and response have been top drawer, because I can vouch for that first-hand. It may even have helped stop it spreading.

I do think it is time for the sport to look at more testing though – two times per week at least. We get tested on a Monday or Tuesday and we haven’t been scheduled to play until Sundays. Anything is possible in that 5-6 days, especially when players can get the virus and show no symptoms like ours did. We had no idea.

I’m pleased for Salford that their tests are negative so far, hopefully that shows the game itself isn’t as bigger risk as we first thought. Hopefully that’s a good thing. I spoke to my old team mate Mark Flanagan during the week to make sure all the Salford boys were okay. It’s not just the worry about yourself but also whether you may have affected others.

We’re now in self-isolation and following the government guidelines, even if we have tested negative. Lockdown was hard enough, but this is one step further. We can’t even go for a walk with the dog or a bike ride, we’re limited to the garden and the house. Some players have even moved out of their homes to be on the safe side. But if that is the best and safest way to do things, then it has to be it.

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