Sport Bubble trouble: Eels may only have 17 eligible players for Magic Round
Eels rocked by injury scare in massive win
Parramatta cruised to a comfortable 32-10 win over local rivals Canterbury to keep their spot in the top two.
Parramatta's decision to roll the dice and play their fringe first-graders in NSW Cup could backfire with the Eels facing the prospect of having to pick a team from only 17 available players.
The NRL sent an email out to all clubs last week advising them to remove players from the lower grades if they wanted to be guaranteed to play in Magic Round given the biosecurity concerns in NSW after two confirmed COVID-19 cases last week.
NRL bunker official axed after Eels victory
The NRL has axed the bunker officials from last night's Roosters and Parramatta clash after several controversial calls.
Suspensions to Marata Niukore and Dylan Brown, as well as a concussion to Reed Mahoney, means the Eels may only have 14 of their 17 players available from last week's win against the Sydney Roosters.
Even if Mahoney passes the concussion protocols, the Eels will need to find two more players for Sunday's game against the Warriors in Brisbane if the NRL doesn't ease restrictions. Nathan Brown and Waqa Blake are in line to return from injury but are no guarantee to both play.
Wiremu Greig, Joey Lussick, Michael Oldfield, Jordan Rankin, Ray Stone, Will Penisini are all in the top 30 and played NSW Cup on Friday night. Jakob Arthur, Nathaniel Roache and Sea Russell are on development contracts and all played, too.
The Eels will have to apply to the NRL for an exemption, however the Herald understands the NSW state government's decision to extend its restrictions for another week will mean the NRL is unlikely to budge.
Eels apply for NRL exemption from bubble
The NRL will take biosecurity advice over an application from Parramatta to name players from outside the bubble for round 10.Injury and suspensions have thrown the Eels' plans into disarray after they risked allowing top 30 players to play reserve grade on Friday, despite warnings from the NRL.
"All NRL squad players who are part of the club's Apollo Register [i.e. bubble] and are eligible for NRL Competition, must comply with the protocol," the email sent to all clubs last Thursday said.
"If any squad members wish to participate in second-tier competitions this weekend they must leave the bubble until further notice. This situation will be reviewed for next week."
The reason the NRL put players back in the bubble was to ensure that Magic Round would continue. The governing body wants to be able to tell the Queensland government, in the case of borders shutting, that all players had been in a bubble and would be able to fly in and out to play.
NRL head of football Graham Annesley said they would monitor the situation every day.
"At the moment they will be [staying in a bubble]," Annesley said. "It is assessed daily and it will depend on our biosecurity advice and of course we're trying to get 16 teams into Queensland next week.
"Whether it will be in place until after Magic Round or not, I don't know at this stage. There are daily decisions being made. If there are any more cases then everything changes again. If they played they can't go back into the bubble until the level-three restrictions are reduced. I don't know exactly when that will be."
Arthur Jr ices Eels NRL win over Warriors .
Parramatta coach Brad Arthur punched the air with delight as his son Jakob scored the match-sealing try in the Eels' 34-18 win over the Warriors.In an opening blitzkrieg that left the Warriors stunned, the Eels crossed four times before the visitors had even completed three sets at Suncorp Stadium.