MATTY Wright admits all rugby league eyes may be fixed on Serbia after clubs there went back to work – the first European league to do so.
And a dose of martial law has helped.
While the game over here remains shut down and no-one really has a clue about when it will get back up and running, or how it will, largely amateur players in the Balkan state are back on the pitch.
Other than temperature testing, things are no different beforehand, even though everything – from dressing rooms to balls to cones – is deep cleaned afterwards.
And Wright, the Leeds-based senior director of Red Star Belgrade’s rugby league team, believes Serbia could provide a blueprint for getting the 13-a-side code in the UK going again.
“Everyone is back training, some players two or three times a week, and it is full contact,” he said ahead of his side’s resumption of action on June 7.
“Obviously, you’ve got to be mindful but there are no regulations, other than a temperature check.
“If anyone has a high temperature, they’ve got to isolate for two weeks but we’re preparing for games again, starting with a cup match on June 7.
“Games will be behind closed doors as Serbia’s government says sporting fixtures can only have a maximum of 100 people, that includes players and staff.
“But the fact we’re back is because of the government’s response to the outbreak – they imposed martial law.
“No-one was allowed out between 5pm and 5am without a special permit. If the military caught you without one, you were locked up.
“Now we’re aware we’re going to have a lot of eyes on us when we get back playing, so much so we’ve put our games free on Facebook.
“People, including those in authority over here, will be monitoring how the game restarts and how it is handled.
“We know we could be a marker for how rugby league in the UK.”
Serbia’s season was put on hold days before it was meant to formally start but Red Star are gearing up for a cup match against Dusan Slini Paracin before the league begins.
While many Red Star players are semi-professional and working for them, with former Warrington trialist Stefan Nedeljkovic building their website and Nikola Djuric operating cameras during his injury lay-off, others have ‘day jobs’.
But as yet, there has been little impact of coronavirus on them – just 230 deaths in the whole country – and if there is, a plan has been made.
Wright added: “If someone starts coming down with symptoms halfway through a game, saying they’re breathless, that game will be completely abandoned and all players and staff must isolate for 14 days.
“But with the internationals likely to be cancelled, the league can play every two weeks instead of one, meaning they could be back by the next match.
“It’s hard to compare the situation in Serbia, with its many rural areas and lower population, to here but everything got shut down abruptly early on.
“Sometimes there has been a bit of head scratching from them at how things have been done here.”
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