Leeds Rhinos boss pledges not to let Covid-19 derail pre-season after five-day training lockdown
Leeds Rhinos hope to be back in training next week after an enforced five-day pre-season shutdown.
Coach Richard Agar admitted the stoppage is a “pain in the backside”, but insisted - with more than two months to go until the new campaign - it will not harm Rhinos’ Betfred Super League prospects.
Rhinos’ Kirkstall training base was closed yesterday after six players and one member of staff tested positive for Covid-19 in a 10-day period.
None of those affected is seriously ill, but Rhinos’ management opted to call off training as a “firebreak” to prevent more cases.
The players and staff will not see each other until Tuesday and must provide a negative test before they return.
Those with the virus are self-isolating for 10 days, along with others who have been identified as close contacts
Rhinos were in the third week of pre-season, but Super League does not kick off until the end of March and Agar is confident preparations will remain on track.
“It is a bit deflating, but it is what it is,” the Rhinos boss said.
“The positive is we have still got a good eight weeks.
“We had scheduled a week off and we can cancel that.
“We are going to have plenty back who don’t have to be tested for three months now - guys who get it build up antibodies so they are clear of testing for 12 weeks - so there is certainly some disruption, but it is just the world we are living in at the moment.”
The training facility will undergo a scheduled deep clean this week while players and staff are off site.
“We went last season having one case and a staff member during the play-offs,” Agar said.
“Now in two weeks back we’ve had a significant amount who’ve had it.
“Some of them have had no symptoms whatsoever and the majority might have a day when they get a bit of flu-like symptoms and a bit of a headache, but we have been pretty fortunate.”
The shutdown is for a minimum of five days, but Agar hopes to resume pre-season on Tuesday.
“That’s the idea, we give it a bit of a circuit break,” he said.
“The more disruption is track and trace.
“Once our boys have had it, they are good to go and don’t need testing.
“But the ones on track and trace get stood down and you have a chance of losing them again down the track.
“It is safety-first though and some of it is not really our decisions - we are adhering to the rules and protocols.”
Rhinos’ Super League rivals Huddersfield Giants took similar action yesterday and Agar added: “I don’t think we are going to be alone in this.
“We have absolutely upped the ante with protocols.
“We had one case last year with Brad Dwyer, who was clearly in the building for a couple of days and didn’t infect anyone.
“This year it has swept through in the two or three weeks we’ve been in, but we don’t know how it has got there or who they’ve picked it up from.
“But clearly to have so many go down in the space of seven to 10 days, it seems to be jumping around a fair bit.
“We will take the necessary steps. It is a pain in the backside for us and a disruption, but there’s no panic, we have plenty of pre-season left and our players are in a pretty good spot.
“We will manage it, negotiate it and get on with it.”
Meanwhile, the Kirkstall complex is on flood alert, but - as of yesterday - has avoided damage following Storm Christoph.
The facility was rebuilt after being destroyed when the river Aire burst its banks in 2015 and Rhinos’ chief executive Gary Hetherington said: “Fortunately we have escaped flooding so far.
“We have taken some precautions, raised some of the machinery in the gym and so on, but all the flood defences are in place.
“We are ready for it if it comes, but hoping it doesn’t.”
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