Rugby league-'Bitter pill': Australia postpones women's league due to COVID-19

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - European Champions Cup - Pool 3 - Harlequins v ASM Clermont Auvergne - Twickenham Stoop, London, Britain - January 18, 2020 General view of a match ball Action Images via Reuters/Adam Holt

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australia's National Rugby League (NRL) has postponed the country's top flight women's competition to 2022 due to COVID-19, triggering complaints from players over a lack of communication.

The six-team NRLW was scheduled to start in October but the league said a growing COVID-19 outbreak in New South Wales state had forced them to reschedule to early next year.

"We explored all avenues, but it is simply not possible," NRL boss Andrew Abdo said in a statement on Thursday.

The professional men's NRL was relocated to northeastern Queensland state in July amid rising COVID-19 cases in New South Wales.

Abdo said the league could not do the same for the women because most were not full-time professional players.

"They have careers off the field that limit the ability to be able to relocate for a long period of time and that’s something we also considered carefully," he said.

The players' union said the NRL had not communicated properly about the postponement.

"No one can dispute the significance of the COVID-19 situation and players are acutely aware of the effects it has had in their communities and for the game,” Lina Caccamo, Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) general manager for women, said in a statement.

"However, for everyone to find out 12 days before the official NRLW pre-season was due to commence that training was delayed and then seven days later that the competition was postponed to 2022 was a bitter pill to swallow."

The RLPA added it would provide support to several New Zealand-based NRLW players who were stranded in Australia following the New Zealand government's decision to suspend a quarantine-free travel "bubble" with Australia in July.

(Reporting by Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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