BARRIE McDermott has warned clubs the real pain of the current pandemic may not be felt until the end of NEXT year.
And that is why he believes getting back on the field in 2020 should be down the list of priorities, with next year’s World Cup at the top.
The Sky Sports commentator has clubs’ futures at heart, having seen his home town Oldham – where he started – plummet after reaching the top and the club he finished his career at, Widnes, almost go under.
Short-term, the 13-a-side code’s aim is just getting back out there, although some clubs see playing behind closed doors as a way of increasing costs without bringing in income.
However, he feels minds should be focussed long-term as that is when the Covid-19 shutdown is likely to really have an effect – and everything should work around the 2021 World Cup in England.
He said: “The issues and problems will be felt for the next year or two but the most important thing on the horizon for our game is the World Cup.
“On the list of things for consideration of what the game look like when we come back, that has to be right at the top.
“We’ve got to take into consideration how what we do this year impacts what we do next year.
“It might even be worth working backwards, it seems the World Cup dates are in concrete then you look at how much time players will need to get ready.
“Then you look at how much time we’ll need to get over this truncated 2020 season we must get in place.
“It might be we start later and finish earlier but the compromise we’ve got to make will benefit the World Cup.
“However, the biggest potential fallout will be later down the track, say in six or 12 months’ time and clubs haven’t got enough money because sponsors won’t be paying as much and there won’t be as many people through the gates.
“That’s a real worry for me, clubs are going to have to think outside the box to make sure players get what they’re worth.”
McDermott will be back in the commentary box when Super League restarts – and expect a change in the ‘six again’ rule the NRL brought in, which sees the tackle count reset for certain infringements, being adopted.
Fake crowd noises that Australian broadcasters add to NRL matches has also been a hit but as a former prop, McDermott feels ‘vulnerable’ for current front rowers.
Whatever the effects are though, he hopes rugby league sticks to the rule change rather than ditch it at the first opportunity.
He added: “I feel vulnerable for them! It’s like being on a treadmill at level 20. Try doing that for two or three minutes. I’m glad I’m retired. The speed of the game will be unbearable for the big men.
“I was texting my mate during the first game, Brisbane v Parramatta, and they had to defend and defend. Quite literally, they couldn’t recover.
“I’m enjoying the six again rule, it’s been great. Over the last five years, there’s probably been a bit too much structure in the game.
“We’re not afraid to be innovative but if things don’t work we probably give them away too quickly. You can’t make a decision on one or two weekends, even a season.
“And while the crowd noise has been a masterstroke but over here, when we do go back to having crowds, we can make something from having limited people in a stadium.”
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