Melbourne Rebels are the latest sports team to get caught up in border mayhem with five Super Rugby players left in training limbo.
The Rebels’ pre-season preparation has hit a hurdle with the five, including Cam Orr and Steve Cummins, trapped in NSW while the team has also had to find an alternate Melbourne training base.
Melbourne rushed the players out of Sydney to Wagga Wagga when the COVID-19 outbreak on the northern beaches flared to ensure they could avoid hotel quarantine after spending almost four months through the 2020 Super Rugby AU season on the road.
Lock Cummins had just returned from playing France and already endured two weeks hotel quarantine in December and only enjoyed a few days in Sydney with his family.
There was confusion about whether to stay in the regional city or try to beat the full border closure, with the Victorian government telling the club the players would be knocked back as they had already applied for an exemption.
“We didn’t anticipate full closure of borders and we were very mindful that guys had such a tough draining year in 2020,” club boss Baden Stephenson told AAP.
“The frustrating part was when we tried to move from Wagga to Melbourne like the 30,000 other travellers we were told to stay.”
The players are undergoing COVID-19 testing while they train but are growing frustrated with the situation.
The club has joined with other sporting organisations such as the Melbourne Storm, who have winger Josh Addo-Carr in Sydney, for an expedited exemption but have so far been told by officials employment is not justification for one.
“Our five players have had two COVID tests each in Wagga – all negative, are asymptomatic and desperate to get into pre-season training with their peers,” Stephenson said.
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“Our players are doing all the required Rugby Australia return-to-play and COVID protocols but feel frustrated and stranded at the moment.”
The Rebels in Melbourne have also faced some challenges as they’ve been unable to train at their usual facility.
Based in the crowded AAMI Park precinct they share a training ground with the Storm, but due to an AFL directive no longer have access to the gym they share with Collingwood’s AFLW team.
The Melbourne Demons had to relocate to Casey because they share gym facilities with the Storm.
The Rebels have now had to move more than 20km away to Latrobe University.
“Latrobe Uni have a new world-class facility that ensured we had complete control over all elements of our program – field, gym, meeting rooms, recovery facilities, testing facilities and access to technology,” Stephenson said.
“With the Wallabies returning next week we have a short pre-season leading into Super Rugby 2021 so it was really important that we maximise every day and not have our program compromised by any lack of facilities.”
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