Sam Tomkins has issued an impassioned plea for Super League players to adopt a stricter lockdown in order to avoid a catastrophic curtailment of the season.
Super League has been forced to postpone two matches and rearrange the rest of the fixture list this weekend after six players and two members of Hull’s coaching staff tested positive for Covid-19 after their match against Salford last Sunday.
The news sent shockwaves through the game and Tomkins believes it could face dire consequences if the warning goes unheeded.
“It is worrying,” the former Wigan and England full-back told the PA news agency. “Hopefully that’s the sort of warning that we needed, that things probably should change.
“The NRL have had a lot of success with the protocols they’re running at the moment so hopefully something will change in Super League.
“They’re a bit stricter on what people can do away from training and games.”
The NRL has enjoyed a largely uninterrupted run since resuming on May 28 and, despite the players earning bigger salaries in the Australian competition, Tomkins believes comparisons with Super League are fair.
“In the NRL if your partner needs to go to work, they still go to work,” said the Catalans Dragons player. “I’m not saying everybody needs to employ a nanny and everybody needs to lock themselves away in a mansion.
“I understand that it’s difficult but there are certainly things that could change in Super League – players and staff not going to restaurants, not going to pubs, not going on nights out and getting in close contact with people.
“There are certainly things we could be doing better.
“People have to pay their mortgage every month but, if Super League goes down, then for the people we’re worried about not being on enough money to isolate, they will be on no money.
“Clubs will go bankrupt without doubt so there needs to be something put in place – which I think there will – which means we can make it as safe as possible.”
Players are currently tested once a week, although Salford have organised additional tests after 13 of their players were required to self-isolate following Sunday’s game.
Tomkins added: “There’s always going to be a risk – there’s nobody to blame at Hull for bringing in Covid-19 because we’ve been following the government guidelines – but we can still do more to minimise the risk.
“Another test a week would help but I think it’s probably how people live their lives away from training and games that can probably minimise the risk a little bit more and enable us to hopefully keep the season going.
“The common goal for everybody involved in rugby league is for Super League to finish and to have a Grand Final the same as every other year.
“What an achievement it would be if Super League and the RFL can make the season and what is left of it a success.”
Tomkins felt the lockdown as much as anybody after being handed a two-match ban for a trip on Salford full-back Niall Evalds during the Dragons’ 30-14 win over the Red Devils on March 7.
He was due to make his return against Salford on Saturday but will now instead face Wakefield on neutral ground at St Helens following the fixture reshuffle and is desperate to make up for lost time.
“I feel like if I’ve done about three pre-seasons,” he said. “The last two weeks have been the worst of the last five months.
“I’m definitely ready to get on the field now, there’s no reason I shouldn’t hit the ground running on Saturday.”
The Catalans are also boosted by the return from injury of ex-Wigan hooker Michael McIlorum and Papua New Guinea threequarter David Mead as they prepare to go up against former team-mate Tony Gigot, who made his Trinity debut in last Sunday’s 23-22 defeat by Wigan.
“I’m just glad Tony’s back and playing in Super League,” said Tomkins. “He’s a very talented player and it will be good to see him on Saturday.”
In Saturday’s other game behind closed doors at the Totally Wicked Stadium, Warrington have a chance to draw level with leaders Wigan when they play Huddersfield.