Super league continues to face a barrage of positive coronavirus tests, as the competition approaches the end of the season.
Unlike in football, where the competition appeared unscathed after restarting, Super League has had a different story.
The Wigan Warriors had to postpone their fixture with the Catalans Dragons this weekend, after they returned six positive tests, including three players in less than a week.
The postponement continues a scary trend for the competition beginning in August.
Hull FC were the first to be impacted after they returned 12 positive tests, following their game against Salford. The knock on effect caused Salford Red Devils to do the same after playing Hull prior to the positive tests.
Since then Wakefield Trinity have had to pull out of two fixtures the first being against Warrington after seeing two players test positive.
The knock on effect of that saw the Warrington Wolves having to sit several players due to concerns they may have also contracted the virus. Although thankfully none tested positive.
Wakefield later had to postpone a second fixture in early September. Castleford were unable to field a team after three players returned positive tests in early October. In addition, six more players had to enter a self isolation period as part of the track & trace program, that left the club with just 14 players available.
Luckily Hull FC stepped in the void and play the scheduled fixture against Leeds, despite problems of their own.
Could the outbreak have further impact on Super League?
Super League has had to postpone a number of games due to the pandemic and with only a handful of games remaining in the season, the rising number of positive threatens to derail the postseason.
To compensate for the unfulfilled fixtures the league plans to use points per game to determine the final table prior to the playoffs. Some have argued that this will damage the integrity of the competition, but accept this is the best option.
However, there is a concern that more positive tests will damage the integrity of the playoffs.
Salford Red Devils have already returned several positive tests just days before their Challenge Cup final with Leeds, likely ruling those players out of the game.
What happens if one of the teams scheduled to compete in the playoffs has a significant outbreak before the game. Will they be forced to field a weakened team? Will the team finishing fifth play instead? Regardless, that leaves a lot of questions on how the title can be awarded fairly.
In rugby union they are enduring a similar problem. Wasps returned seven positive tests just 10 days before their final against Exeter. They have cancelled training for the remainder of the week in a significant disruption to the build-up to the Premiership final on October 24.
Super League could endure something similar.
No plans to cancel the season
The league is continuing to adapt and make changes as necessary when playing in a pandemic. Nevertheless, the RFL is unlikely to be cancel the season due to the financial ramifications of not completing the season.
With the sport struggling financially the ramifications of failing to finish the season would be huge. The loss of fan revenue has left many teams struggling to operate. Fan revenue makes a large chunk of rugby league teams’ profits and without that they are reliant on the distribution money from their television deal with Sky.
Should the Super League end their season early, they would have to hand that money back to Sky. That would leave many clubs in a precarious position financially.
There is a fear that cancelling the season could see many teams go bust and that is something the RFL are understandably keen to avoid.
Regardless of what happens, the RFL may need to accept they’re looking at a scenario where they will have to award the title without thinking of integrity.