NRL set to return on May 28

ARLC Chairman Peter V'andys speaks to the media during an NRL press conference. Photo by Matt King/Getty Images

The Australian Rugby League Commission has launched an ambitious plan to restart the NRL on May 28 and is weighing up the merits of two potential season structures.

Following landmark meetings with the NRL's innovation committee on Thursday, the ARLC has approved plans to get the competition up and running almost 10 weeks after it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

State of Origin remaining in a standard three-game format and playing one Grand Final in Sydney was also endorsed by the ARLC, and there is a preference towards completing the remaining rounds of a regular NRL season rather than playing in conferences.

The announcement came hours after free-to-air broadcast partners Channel Nine released a scathing statement accusing the NRL of mismanaging funds, and leaving them with an unfulfilled contract.

ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce, who is heading up the innovations committee, said: "I'm pleased to announce we're planning a competition start on May 28.

"The details on the competition structure we haven't got yet because the landscape is changing around government boundaries. That will feed into the complexity structure.

"Today what we landed on was a starting date.

"We haven't finalised what that [competition] looks like yet. Why we want to firm up a date is to give certainty to players and their schedules, clubs and thousands or people who are out of work through clubs and millions of fans.

"It's a mark for everyone to work towards that's associated with the game."

Pearce said the changing landscape around government regulations had prevented the committee from confirming a new season structure.

He also said the commission was considering two potential season structures, and is moving away from the idea of housing players in isolation 'bubbles' in Sydney due to the reduced infection rate in Australia.

ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said he was hopeful of the competition restarting at the scheduled date.

"Our goal is to give as much certainty as we can in uncertain times. There is clear evidence the curve is flattening," said V'landys.

"The NSW Government has done a great job in reducing the infection rate from 22.27 per cent when we suspended the competition to 1.43 per cent today.

"The situation is changing dramatically and we need to get moving.

"It is in the best interests of our clubs, our players, our stakeholders and importantly our fans that the competition resumes as quickly and as safely as possible.

"We have said right from the start that what we say today may need to change tomorrow.

"We will be flexible, and if the trend changes or if government restrictions change then so will we. The health and safety of our players and the general public remains the absolute priority."