Project Apollo’s giant leap for NRL liftoff
The NRL has taken the most significant step yet towards a May 28 relaunch after promising talks between Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and ARLC chairman Peter V'landys.
News Corp can reveal the Project Apollo mission is set for take-off with V'landys set to defy the odds - and some stinging criticism - by reviving the NRL premiership after positive high-level negotiations with Palaszczuk.
An NRL source close to negotiations told News Corp: "The meeting was one small step for Queensland ... and a giant leap forward for the NRL."
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V'landys and Palaszczuk held a telephone hook-up around 3pm Tuesday. The discussions lasted 30 minutes and were described as "respectful and cordial". The talks concluded with the Queensland premier keen to support V'landys in his plan to relaunch the NRL on May 28.
Despite the social distancing scandal involving NRL stars Josh Addo-Carr, Latrell Mitchell and Nathan Cleary, Palaszczuk was keen to find a workable solution with V'landys to help resuscitate the NRL.
Palaszczuk was regarded as the major impediment to the NRL resuming after her hardline stance on Queensland's border controls, which, in their current form, make interstate travel for the NRL's 16 teams impossible.
Queensland's three teams, the Broncos, Cowboys and Titans, all faced the prospect of moving south of the border to keep the NRL's competition dream alive.
But after Tuesday's meeting, the Queensland premier found common ground in positive dialogue with V'landys. Palaszczuk told the ARLC chairman a "workable plan" for NRL travel would be discussed by the National Cabinet, including Prime Minister Scott Morrison, this Friday.
If the plan is formally approved, Queensland's teams will stay home and the border will be opened for all NRL travel.
The Queensland premier's stance suggests V'landys is set to get the political green light - and the imprimatur of the National Cabinet would pave the way for the NRL to officially resume on May 28.
Palaszczuk has taken a cautious approach through the COVID-19 crisis, but has always maintained she would keep an open mind on the NRL resuming pending a full report from V'landys.
That has now been delivered, with the NRL having tabled a 40-page biosecurity report to put to bed any political concerns over rugby league's ability to return ahead of every other major competition in world sport.
It is understood Palaszczuk was impressed with the detail of V'landys' proposal, which has included the NRL enlisting a chemical warfare expert to investigate how to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
V'landys told News Corp on Sunday he was confident he would garner the support of the Queensland premier.
"We have looked at all the data and will put enormous biosecurity measures in place to protect our players," he said.
"Our players will be safer under our system than they would be in the community.
"We appreciate the Premier of Queensland has more important things to do at the moment than worry about rugby league.
"Our target date is five weeks away. We have plenty of time to show the Premier our plan.
"In five weeks, if this rate of infection continues to decline at such a rapid rate, the Premier will have a much better consideration."
Originally published as Project Apollo's giant leap for NRL liftoff