Friday evening’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 contest, with winger Maika Sivo scoring a double for the visitors.
But after the final siren, Manly captain Daly Cherry-Evans opted not to conduct a post-match press conference after reporters discovered a positive RAT cartridge in the media room.
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Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler’s interview went ahead as planned, but Eels mentor Brad Arthur played it safe and conducted his press conference in the hallway outside the toilets.
Meanwhile, Parramatta’s players refused to do interviews after the game to avoid any risk of being exposed to the deadly virus.
News Corp’s Martin Gabor tweeted: “Drama at 4 Pines Park. A positive RAT was found in the post match press conference room. Des Hasler did his press conference but DCE played it safe. Eels are concerned and it looks like their presser will be delayed and moved.”
AAP’s Scott Bailey posted: “Absolute shambolic scenes at Brookvale. Positive RAT cartridge sitting in the designated press conference room. None of the journalists behind it. DCE opted out of presser while Brad Arthur moved his outside and no Eels players spoke as a result.”
The positive RAT test was later removed by an NRL official. It remains unclear where the cartridge came from.
It was a back-and-forth affair at 4 Pines Park on Friday, with Manly taking a lead 20-14 after the halftime break.
But the Eels fightback began in spectacular fashion as winger Waqa Blake, playing his 150th game, dived for the corner to score a stunning try in the 55th minute.
Latching onto a perfectly-directed lofted pass from young teammate Jakob Arthur, the Eels flyer lunged and somehow managed to ground the ball with his knees inches from the turf in touch.
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 life support.
“It was a big moment wasn’t it?” Eels coach Arthur told reporters after the 16-point victory.
“It really got us back in the hunt. Good for Jake’s confidence too.
“Really pleased for Waqa, he’s the sort of player that doesn’t get a lot of accolades but he just competes at every contest for us. He’s had some injuries over the last couple of years but he always works the hardest to get back on the field.”
With four games remaining in the regular season, the Sea Eagles are now four points out of the top eight in 10th place on the NRL ladder, while the Eels have moved into fifth on 28 competition points.