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Empty stadiums will make Jackson feel sentimental

Bulldogs captain Josh Jackson said playing before an empty 80,000-seat ANZ Stadium would take him back to his youth and what made him play rugby league in the first place.

With the round two restrictions of empty stadiums coming into place this weekend as part of the coronavirus precautions, the Bulldogs host the Cowboys in the largest NRL venue in the competition.

"It's unprecedented what's happening," Jackson said.

"I guess it's sort of like as you did as a kid – you played in front of no crowds because you played for the love of the game.

"It's another opportunity for us and I'm looking forward to it. It's a real talking point I know."

The Bulldogs will get to know the inside of ANZ Stadium very well over the next five rounds – with four of those games at the Olympic Park venue either as home games (Cowboys, Sharks, Eels) and as an away venue (Rabbitohs).

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"It's going to be a bit different but it's the times we are in so it's something we've got to get used to," said Aiden Tolman, whose former skipper at the Storm Cameron Smith called for a suspension of games.

"It's a hard thing to be in but they've all said the health of the players, officials and everybody else in the game is paramount," Tolman said.

"We've just come off a hard four months of pre-season so the last thing we want is not to be playing games.

"Unless there's a health scare, then the advice may change.

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Jackson added: "I know a few of the guys came out at the weekend saying they've got to go through airports and things and confined spaces with a lot of people.

"I haven't thought about it (season suspended) too much but my preference would probably be to still play each round and then extend if needed.

"I don't know how feasible that is with logistics and things. But for me I'd rather play the entire competition.

"So I want to keep playing but if it's putting players at a risk then obviously we've just got to suspend it. It's not just players, it's the people they have contact with like their families, elderly people."

The Warriors are the other component to suspending the competition to keep its integrity of 16 teams and eight games each weekend.

"As we progress more serious decisions need to be made – the big one being the Warriors," Tolman said.

"They're here until this weekend and then they said they're going home. You've got to feel for them being away from their families."

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The AFL is considering cramming matches into the opening rounds – possible with four or five-day turnarounds – in case the coronavirus forces a shutdown later in the season.

"That would be tough – five days (turn-around) are hard enough." Jackson said.

"It's a very physical game and that would probably be putting players at higher risk (of injuries)."

Jackson's partner is a doctor – currently training to be an anaesthetist.

"We haven't spoken about it (coronavirus) too much but obviously it's going to get a bit more hectic in the next couple of months or so," he said.

"She probably gets enough of it at work so she doesn't need to come home to it too."


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New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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