'No bad ideas' for NRL's Apollo Project

NRL officials are still hopeful of getting the game up and running again by June 1.
NRL officials are still hopeful of getting the game up and running again by June 1.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has declared there are no bad ideas as Project Apollo explores every radical plan possible to get the rugby league season up and running over the next two months.

Fresh from negotiating a new payment plan with the Rugby League Players' Association on Thursday, NRL executives are now diving into revolutionary concepts to be ready for the season to start when it's safe to do so.

In a mission likened to putting a man on the moon, the game's innovation committee has been tasked with generating seemingly impossible ideas such as a reality television show, housing players in a 'bubble' and 'NRL Island'.

The committee, headed by ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce, will put their plans to Peter V'landys and the rest of the ARLC at the end of April.

"The concept is as simple as trying to find innovative ways to get the game back. And whether that's putting players in secure environments, or restructuring how the competition looks and feels, we're open to all suggestions," Greenberg told Fox Sports on Friday.

"At the moment there are no bad ideas. We're going to model a number of those scenarios to put to the commission at the back end of April and we're going to push really hard.

"Obviously there are some things out of our control. We don't have a line of sight yet on what the government restrictions will look like or border controls on our teams in both Queensland and New Zealand, but what we don't want to do is not be ready."

The NRL is eyeing an ambitious start date of June 1, although it is more likely to be later in the year - the latest possible start on September 1.

While the entire world is dealing with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and the impacts on the economy, Greenberg said he feels immense responsibility to restart the NRL season not only for the players, but for all the jobs that rely on it.

NRL headquarters is currently working on a skeleton staff with 95 per cent of employees placed on annual leave, while most clubs have been forced to make cuts and stand down staff.

However, fringe businesses also rely on rugby league, and once rugby league can recommence, parts of the economy can too.

"We're looking at all opportunities and all revenue opportunities because in simple terms, if we can unlock the games back on the field it unlocks the industry," he said.

"This is a very big industry and employs thousands of people all across the game inside and outside and some people feel that we only focus on the players, but we understand that the guy selling hotdogs at Leichhardt Oval on the weekend is hurting as much for his small business as those across the rest of our industry.

"Peter and I feel a huge sense of obligation and duty together in getting games back to unlock the rugby league industry and make sure people are back earing their incomes, and the fans get what they want most, which is footy on the weekends."

Australian Associated Press