As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on rugby league, Michael Carayannis has uncovered the last time a pandemic threw rugby league into chaos.
As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on rugby league, Michael Carayannis has uncovered the last time a pandemic threw rugby league into chaos.

The last time a pandemic threw rugby league into chaos

A flu pandemic causing havoc in rugby league is not new with a 2009 clash between St George Illawarra and Gold Coast almost cancelled because of swine flu fears.

The Dragons fullback Darius Boyd was forced to leave the ground just moments before kick-off to be hastily quarantined while Gold Coast's Ashley Harrison also had to skip the game because of fears the flu could spread. It came after their Queensland teammate Ben Hannant unknowingly played an Origin match with swine flu just days before.

Darius Boyd on his way to score his matchwinning intercept try
Darius Boyd on his way to score his matchwinning intercept try

There were fears the match would be cancelled just before kick-off because a NSW staff member was showing flu-like symptoms. Had he not been cleared the likes of Justin Poore, Michael Weyman, Ben Creagh, Luke Bailey and Anthony Laffranchi would have been ruled out of the match on the Gold Coast.

Instead it was just Boyd and Harrison who were told to skip the game despite Boyd arriving on the team bus with his teammates.

St George Illawarra's Jason Nightingale was a late replacement at fullback for Boyd having been named on the interchange bench.

Jason Nightingale of the Dragons breaks away from the defence of the Gold Coast Titans (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Jason Nightingale of the Dragons breaks away from the defence of the Gold Coast Titans (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

"We didn't find out until we were on the way to the ground that Darius couldn't play," Nightingale said. "It was very unknown and Darius was nonchalant about the whole thing. He was like 'whatever has to happen, I feel fine. But rules are rules'.

"We only found out the game was going ahead a few hours before kick-off. Typical Wayne didn't really expose us to that information. He didn't let it worry us. That was a big part that had rubbed off on Darrius who thought either way it was not a big deal.

"That was the way we managed most things without fuel or emotion. I remember it feeling a bit silly and weird but (the coronavirus is) totally different."

The Titans won 28-24 in front of 20,416 people.


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