NRL opts not to delay games as one of football’s hottest days in 20 years looms

The NRL won’t follow the A-League’s lead in pushing back Sunday’s matches for what will be one of football’s hottest days in 20 years in the belief its heat protocols will adequately protect the players.

Temperatures are forecast to be in the mid-30s for the 4pm clash between Canterbury and Wests Tigers at Belmore Sports Ground, while the thermometer is expected to reach 36 degrees just an hour before kick-off when Canberra host Cronulla.

The A-League has responded to the unseasonably warm weather by shifting Sunday’s Macarthur FC clash with Melbourne City at Campbelltown from 3pm to 7pm. The NRL has opted not to follow suit and will stick with its initial schedule, confident it has measures in place to deal with a scorching autumn Sunday.

“We have heat provisions to contend with any scenario,” NRL head of football Graham Annesley said. “There are provisions within our operations manual that allow for things to kick in based on the conditions at the time of the game.

“The club doctors get together before a game and take readings, and temperature is only one factor. They go into the computer and give us an outcome of where things fall in the nature of the weather conditions.

“That could result in additional water carriers right through to the full suite of measures that includes an extended half-time break and drinks break through each half.”

Titans forward David Taylor takes on the Tigers in 42-degree heat on the Gold Coast in March 2014.Credit:Getty

If Sunday’s forecasts are accurate, the players will have to contend with some of the hottest weather conditions for two decades. Only rarely has the mercury soared higher during an NRL match.

Players endured on-field temperatures of 42 degrees when the Gold Coast hosted the Tigers in March 2014. On that occasion, several players reported losing up to three kilograms in body weight.

The Eels and Sea Eagles also played through the pain of temperatures nearing 40 degrees during a clash at Brookvale in March 2018.

The NRL uses an instrument called a Kestral 5400 Heat Stress Tracker to measure air temperature, globe temperature, wind speed and humidity to calculate a heat stress index. If the reading exceeds 200, additional measures to be enacted include:

  • Extra ice, towels and fans for players on the bench;
  • The half-time break to be extended for 20 minutes;
  • Referees to call an extra one-minute break approximately 20 minutes into each half;
  • Three trainers will be permitted to attend to players and carry water;
  • Players can get a drink whenever their team has possession;
  • Three players, rather than just two, can be interchanged at the same time.

“We’ll keep an eye on it and reach out to the NRL,” Rugby League Players’ Association boss Clint Newton said. “We trust they will work through their policy, which they have had in place for the last few years and is continually updated. It’s obviously an ongoing concern with the heat, particularly with the intensity of the matches these days.

“There have been steps taken to speed up the game and increase fatigue. When that’s coupled with difficult weather conditions, particularly heat and humidity, that’s something we need to be vigilant about.

“Both teams have their doctors and I have no doubt the NRL will work with both high-performance teams and is putting things in place ahead of what looks to be a hot day.”

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