Friday night’s press conference at 4 Pines Park was thrown into disarray after a positive Covid-19 RAT test was found in the venue’s designated media room.
The Parramatta Eels defeated the Manly Sea Eagles 36-20 in the Round 21 match, with winger Maika Sivo scoring a double for the visitors.
But after the final siren, Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans chose not to hold a post-game press conference after reporters discovered a positive RAT cartridge in the media room.
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The interview with Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler went as planned, but Eels mentor Brad Arthur played it safe and held his press conference in the hallway outside the toilets.
Meanwhile, Parramatta’s players refused to conduct post-match interviews to avoid any risk of exposure to the deadly virus.
News Corp’s Martin Gabor tweeted: “Drama at 4 Pines Park. A positive RAT was found in the press conference room after the game. Des Hasler held his press conference but DCE played it safe. Eels are concerned and it looks like their press will be delayed and moved.”
Scott Bailey of AAP wrote: “Absolutely chaotic scenes in Brookvale. Positive RAT cartridge in the designated press conference room. None of the journalists behind it. DCE opted out of presser as Brad Arthur moved his exterior and as a result no Eels players spoke. ”
The positive RAT test was later removed by an NRL official. It is not yet clear where the cartridge comes from.
It was a back-and-forth affair at 4 Pines Park on Friday, with Manly taking a 20-14 lead after halftime.
But Eels’ fight got off to a spectacular start when winger Waqa Blake, who was playing his 150th game, ducked to the corner to score a stunning try in the 55th minute.
The Eels flyer grabbed a perfectly aimed loft pass from young teammate Jakob Arthur, lunged and somehow managed to land the ball with his knees inches from the turf in contact.
It proved to be the turning point for the Eels, who scored three late tries to blow the Sea Eagles away and leave Manly’s season on a ventilator.
“It was a big moment, wasn’t it?” Eels coach Arthur told reporters after the 16-point victory.
“It really helped us get back into the hunt. Also good for Jake’s confidence.
“Really happy for Waqa, he’s the kind of player who doesn’t get a lot of credit, but he just competes in every game for us. He’s had some injuries in recent years, but he always works the hardest to get back on the pitch.”
With four games left in the regular season, the Sea Eagles are now four points off the top eight in 10th place on the NRL ladder, while the Eels have moved up to fifth with 28 league points.