Brisbane Broncos NRL stars have fled the interstate to avoid becoming entangled in a coronavirus outbreak and trapped in their hometowns.
Players and staff boarded a chartered flight to Sydney at short notice on Monday after Queensland registered four more locally acquired cases, leading to a three-day lockdown for Greater Brisbane and surrounding areas.
The state registered eight more new cases on Tuesday as a worrying community cluster is growing.
The Broncos escaped from Brisbane two hours before the city shutdown at 5pm on Monday and landed in Sydney, where they were greeted on the tarmac by police and health officials to check their temperature as a precaution.
One of the stars checked in the photo was Broncos enforcer Payne Haas, who is back from a three-game suspension for assaulting police officers on a drunken night out off season.
Broncos enforcer Payne Haas (pictured) has his temperature on the tarmac checked after the club landed in Sydney late Monday afternoon
The Broncos were taken to a waiting bus that took them to the team hotel accompanied by a police escort.
The Brisbane players and staff were all tested over the weekend with all negative results, and have been in home isolation ever since.
The club has set up camp in Sydney for at least the next 10 days, unsure when they can return home.
Interim Broncos boss Neil Monaghan said the players and staff have made the changes in their stride.
“While it is tough for many of our team of young families, they are eager to hit the road and prepare for a great challenge against the storm,” he said.
The Broncos have three days to prepare for their fourth round of Good Friday blockbuster clash against reining champion Melbourne Storm, the venue of which has yet to be finalized.
Scheduled to be played at Storm fortress AAMI Park, the venue remains under a COVID-19 cloud as the NRL contemplates contingency plans amid talks with the Victorian government.
Brisbane Broncos stars made a gracious flight to Sydney on Monday to avoid the city’s unexpected lockdown. Pictured is Broncos star Alex Glenn
The Brisbane Broncos players and staff were taken to their hotel by bus (pictured) accompanied by police escort
Victoria closed the border with parts of southeastern Queensland on Monday after locally acquired cases were registered.
The NRL is hopeful that the grace-dash interstate hours before Victoria’s border closed will be enough to save the Broncos in need of an exemption.
If not, however, the NRL has several options for ensuring that play continues, including playing the match in Sydney.
A possible backup is playing it at Stadium Australia, which resulted in a double-header after the previous clash between South Sydney Rabbitohs and Canterbury.
The Brisbane Broncos will spend the next 10 days in Sydney. Pictured is their chartered flight arriving in Sydney late Monday afternoon
“At this stage the game is in Melbourne, and we’ll see what happens in the next few days,” said NRL football head Graham Annesley.
‘We will do everything we can to keep the game as planned. However, we have to weigh that up against continued competition.
“And the main priority of the committee is to make sure we can get the competition out so we don’t have to suspend games or rounds.”
He acknowledged that the Broncos may be forced to stay in Sydney longer than the scheduled 10 days
“Of course there is a chance that the Queensland government will lock up Brisbane for some time,” Annesley said.
‘It’s three days at this stage.
“There is a chance that the lockdown could be extended beyond the current geographic areas, but the difficulty with this is that we are guessing.”
Hundreds of Brisbane residents lined up to be tested on Monday after more locally acquired coronavirus cases were recorded. Pictured is a motorist being tested at a drive-through clinic
The NRL is also keeping an eye on the changing situation in Queensland, where two games are scheduled on Saturday evening.
The Cronulla Sharks are scheduled to take on North Queensland Cowboys on the Sunshine Coast, followed by Gold Coast Titans hosting the Canberra Raiders at home.
Both regions are currently not included in the lockdown for Greater Brisbane and surrounding regions.