North QLD Cowboys players Jason Taumalolo and Justin O'Neill (right) as the team flies into Bankstown Airport on an Alliance Airlines flight today ahead of their NRL game tonight against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium. Picture: Jonathan Ng
North QLD Cowboys players Jason Taumalolo and Justin O'Neill (right) as the team flies into Bankstown Airport on an Alliance Airlines flight today ahead of their NRL game tonight against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium. Picture: Jonathan Ng

NRL offered aircraft fleet to keep season alive

The NRL has been offered exclusive use of a multimillion-dollar fleet of charter aircraft to ferry players and help the code avoid bankruptcy after rugby league's stars were yesterday ordered into lockdown.

The Courier-Mail can reveal a Brisbane-based company has contacted the ARL Commission with an aviation proposal to save the NRL season - and it has the backing of Souths supercoach Wayne Bennett.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has declared the code's 400-plus players will enter a self-isolation program to stave off the coronavirus pandemic that threatens the viability of the NRL premiership.

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NRL teams will need to fly to and from stadiums on game day under new guidelines. Picture: Jonathan Ng
NRL teams will need to fly to and from stadiums on game day under new guidelines. Picture: Jonathan Ng

The ARLC met yesterday to explore ways to keep the season alive, including relocating all 16 NRL clubs to one location and financing weekly chartered flights to protect the code's most precious assets _ the players _ from a COVID-19 infection.

It can be revealed aviation experts AERgO have contacted the ARL Commission. The company has access to a fleet of planes, ranging from Boeing 737s to smaller 30-seaters, on standby to carry hundreds of players and officials during the lockdown period.

AERgO general manager Ezra Fasan said his organisation has a number of planes available, which the NRL can charter at any time to ensure the code does not breach its $1.8 billion broadcast deal following the self-isolation edict

"We can dedicate an exclusive plane service to the NRL," Fasan said.

"The option is there for them. I've contacted the ARL Commission with the proposal and we can provide dedicated aircraft for however long the NRL would require planes.

"It's a terrible time for society. I'm a passionate rugby league fan.

"We're a small business in Brisbane and we are doing what we can to help out and ensure the survival of the NRL."

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The NRL has been offered access to AERgO’s aircraft fleet. Picture: Getty Images.
The NRL has been offered access to AERgO’s aircraft fleet. Picture: Getty Images.

It is estimated the NRL spent more than $300,000 booking five charter flights for this weekend's games. It is considered a shrewd outlay given each round successfully played delivers around $14 million from broadcasters into the NRL's coffers.

Souths will arrive in Brisbane today on a chartered flight for their clash against Brisbane. They will shun hotel accommodation and fly home after full-time to avoid contact with the general public.

Fasan said if the NRL looks to lockdown the code's entire playing group in one area, such as Gladstone or Townsville, in compound-style living, AERgO can have dedicated aircraft parked nearby ready to fly.

"We have been able to free up two dedicated air frames, as of today, if the NRL required them," he said.

"The two 737s carry up to 126 each so that's 252 players and staff we could accommodate in one movement. We also have access to smaller planes ranging from 10 to 30 seats.

"The reason I reached out is because in the event of a lockdown situation, the NRL will need private aircraft and we can help them in any way they want.

"It would be an aircraft service for however long the NRL required the planes. And if the broadcasters need freight to carry television equipment, we can provide that as well."

The coronavirus crisis has forced the NRL to lock fans from games. Picture: Getty Images.
The coronavirus crisis has forced the NRL to lock fans from games. Picture: Getty Images.

 

Bennett said he would support the NRL relocating all players to a specified region.

"It would be a great outcome every day that we keep the game alive," he said.

"If we need to go into lockdown to do that, so be it.

"Rugby league is our business. Who out there would feel good about any business closing down? As a professional rugby league coach, I would make sure my players are ready to play."

Originally published as NRL offered aircraft fleet to keep season alive


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