Paul Gallen urges NRL stars to prepare for crowdless State of Origin amid fears of rising COVID-19 numbers

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New South Wales legend Paul Gallen says players must be prepared to play inside empty stadiums in this year’s State of Origin series amid fears crowds will be locked out.

While crowds have been in attendance at NRL fixtures for the majority of the season, the league is now concerned that fans may have to watch from home again due to the fear of a second COVID-19 wave in New South Wales.

According to Nine’s NRL reporter Danny Weidler, the next two weeks will prove pivotal for the league’s hopes of having crowds in October.

“If we see an increase in the next two weeks, the NRL reassess the likelihood of crowds in October and they’re watching that with some anxiety as well,” he told Nine’s 100% Footy.

Despite fears of rising COVID-19 numbers, Weidler said masks are not yet mandatory at NRL matches, and will remain optional unless government advice in NSW changes.

Gallen, who made 24 Origin appearances for the Blues between 2006 and 2016, said while it would be “weird” to play Origin without crowds, the most important thing was to avoid another stoppage in the season.

“It would be weird and it’s such a tribal environment that you want to play in front of,” he told 100% Footy.

“I couldn’t imagine playing Origin without a crowd, but the times we’re in at the moment you’ve got to adjust.

“If the government is letting us play we’ve got to abide by the rules. If they say there can’t be a crowd, or there can only be 10,000 there, we’ve got to do it.

“As a player, you’d rather pull on that blue jersey any day of the week in front of 80,000 people, 10,000 people or no people, just so you can get out there and play.”

Former Blues coach Phil Gould also backed Gallen, saying it didn’t matter where the matches would be played, even if all three are played in Queensland.

“You play in a car park and use a brick for a football,” he told 100% Footy.

“Play them wherever they like, play them in the car park. You don’t need a crowd, just have a blue jersey and a maroon jersey. Game on.

“It’s really important that our game maintains its credibility with the governments. The governments are under a lot of pressure as you can understand in making the rules and what’s happening in Victoria.

“Our game has been good, we’ve had great credibility with the government, they’ve given us concessions, they’ve allowed a few things to slip through that have helped the game stay afloat because they know the importance of that for the community as well.

“It’s really important that our players and our clubs and our league maintains discipline at all times and keeps our credibility with the government until this thing passes, whenever it passes. We cannot get impatient.”