NRL’s bizarre COVID sex ban
No sex, no walking the dog, no grocery shopping.
Stay away from cafes, restaurants and don't allow any visitors into your home.
These are the extraordinary home quarantine requirements Queensland-based NRL players and officials are being subjected to as part of strict Project Apollo protocols.
And they're sending players spiralling into depression.
That's the warning from retiring Brisbane veteran Darius Boyd, who has made a desperate plea for the bubble restrictions to be eased on suffering players who "don't have the tools to handle it".
News Corp can reveal that Queensland-based players aren't allowed to leave their house for any other reason than to travel to and from training and matches.
Even when they're at home, players are being made to stay at least 1.5m away from people they live with - including family members - sleep in a separate room and don't even go near your pets.
Brisbane, North Queensland and Gold Coast players - as well as the Sunshine Coast-based Melbourne Storm - are forced into these uncompromising Queensland bubble restrictions because rules state that once they come into contact with anyone from NSW, they must enter a 14-day at-home quarantine period.
"I'm just lucky that I have the strategy and tools to use when I'm down and struggling - but other players don't and that's a major concern going forward," said Broncos fullback Boyd, who has a history of depression.
On a particularly bad day, Boyd called the Rugby League Players Association recently, looking to escape the bubble.
"I had a bad day and I thought, 'I don't know if I can do this','' Boyd said.
"I know the strategies I use for my mental health, but I had a day where I was just like this is ridiculous - I'm really struggling.
"I picked up the phone and asked the RLPA operations manager (Tom Symonds), 'How long can a player stay out of the bubble for?'"
It's understood the NRL has been working with the Queensland government to try and introduce more practical protocols which assist with players' wellbeing.
Boyd is telling this story in the hope of pouring light on a serious issue for the NRL, the RLPA and the NSW and QLD Government's that isn't going to go away any time soon.
Under the 14-day quarantine requirements, the Broncos and Cowboys will have to remain inside the bubble for a week after the regular season finishes, while the Titans will endure an extra fortnight, given they host Newcastle in the final round.
But, there is every chance the entire NRL will be back operating under bubble restrictions as soon as players resume 2021 pre-season training in November.
"No one is complaining and whingeing, we're grateful to have the game up and running and extremely thankful to have a job, but at the same time, fans are only seeing us when we're on the TV screens,'' Boyd said.
"Every other day, we're being asked to do something that no other players before us have been asked to do and with that comes an inability from some players to be able to cope.
"Unless you're living it, it's very difficult for others to understand it.''
Unlike the NSW-based NRL players, who are allowed to grab a takeaway coffee or get a haircut, every player living in Queensland must isolate for 14 days every time they return home from an away game in Sydney.
The Broncos played the Roosters at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday night and began day one of another 14 days of isolation on Saturday.
Aside from a seven-day release from the bubble between August 1 and August 7, Boyd's Broncos will have spent eight weeks in isolation by the time they play the Titans on September 12.
Boyd understands that any further breaches of the NRL bubble will put the game at risk of sinking into a $200 million black hole - as a result of the likelihood that both the NSW and Queensland governments telling the NRL the competition must stop.
But what Boyd is asking the RLPA, NRL and Queensland government for, is an adjustment to the restrictions - before it's too late.
News Corp has reached out to the Queensland government for comment.
"I've been one of the ones advocating to address it over the last couple of weeks in particular because there's a lot of boys struggling mentally,'' Boyd said.
"I'm lucky I've got my wife and kids at home that keep me company, but there's some single boys out there by themselves living under these rules, which states they can't even go and visit a teammate, despite the fact he's also in the bubble and trained with them earlier in the day.
"You can get a lift to training together, but you can't go to each other's house and share a meal.
"You can't go for a drive on the weekend, but you can drive to training.
"You've got blokes taking 45-minutes to drive a 15-minute route, just because they want to stay out longer.
"One of my routines for my mental health is catching up with support people or really close friends, just for a coffee, have a chat and check in with some people.
"It's pretty simple, but they are the things that can change your entire outlook.
"People will say, 'you've got a few more weeks left in your career, just shut up and deal with it, this is bigger than you'.
"I totally get that point. But I'm not the only one saying this.
"What I'm focused on is the guys that are doing it tough, that don't have the tools to handle it like I do.
"I'm trying to be approachable to all of my teammates, because I do care.
"I see myself in a few of the boys and I see some of the struggles that we all go through as young men - and that's before the covid rules came in.
"I've been pushing to the RLPA hoping that the Queensland Government will take it on board for us, just to be allowed to go for a walk outside the house, go through a drive-thru to get a coffee, just a couple of small leniencies.
"I'm not suggesting we start hanging at cafes or restaurants.
"We're doing all the COVID-19 tests, so we'll know pretty quickly if someone needs to isolate.
"But just to be able to do some small essentials, like picking up a meal for dinner to cook for the family, or have a chat in the local park. - they're the little things that can help when you're struggling.
"And although other may not see it, it's happening.''