THE Newcastle Jets and their fellow A-League players remain in limbo despite a commitment from Football Federation Australia officials on Thursday to complete the 2019-20 season "as soon as possible".
Unlike the NRL, which is forging ahead with plans to resume full training operations on May 4 and games on May 28, the A-League has been unable to offer any substantial update about what its next step will be.
The competition was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 24, with only a handful of rounds remaining before the finals were scheduled to kick off. Seven clubs, including the Jets, have since stood down players and staff.
FFA chief executive James Johnson said in a statement on Thursday that "a number of criteria" would define when players would be cleared to resume normal training, but added: "It is difficult to see that process beginning before the end of May."
The FFA said it was in "ongoing dialogue with government health authorities" and would need restrictions relating to health and safety, state and federal borders, large gatherings and social distancing to be relaxed before players are allowed to train together.
"Our priority remains the health and safety of all players and staff and we will need to be satisfied that appropriate measures are in place to ensure this," Johnson said.
" .... football takes its responsibilities as a good corporate citizen very seriously, and remains committed to working in partnership with the government to slow the spread of COVID-19.
"At the same time, we want to play our part in supporting the social and mental wellbeing of the Australian football family and all sports-loving Australians.
"Ultimately, the coronavirus will have the final say on when we can get the season started again."
Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna said the NRL's ambitious plans were irrelevant to his code.
"Between now and the end of May, we should know how things are going," McKinna said.
"And obviously things are getting better every day.
"Everybody wants to come back and finish the season. All the clubs agreed on that, but it's still too early to be putting dates on it.
"Whatever the NRL is doing is up to them.
"All the best to them with what they're doing, but the A-League won't be driven by that.
"We'll be doing what's right for our game."
Exacerbating the dilemma the round-ball code is facing, Fox Sports has not paid a grant that was due last week and there is mounting speculation that the pay-TV provider is poised to walk away from on its $57-million-a-year deal broadcasting deal with FFA.
In addition, standard A-League player contracts expire on May 31, so as it stands a host of players will need to be re-signed if the competition is to resume.
In the case of the Jets, head coach Carl Robinson is with his family in Canada, assistant coach Kenny Miller has returned to Scotland, and overseas players Joe Ledley and Bobby Burns have returned to Wales and Northern Ireland respectively.
If the A-League season is to be completed, they may have to at least spend two weeks in quarantine before they are allowed to re-enter the country.
McKinna said working through the myriad logistics was "like putting a jigsaw together."
"When you've got the first couple of pieces in place, you can start building it," he said.
"But until you've got those pieces, you can't really get started. That's where we're at now."
Jets skipper Nigel Boogaard expressed his frustration earlier this week, saying it was "a little bit ridiculous, to be honest" that the uncertainty had dragged on for a month.
"If the likes of FFA, club owners and everyone involved can't come together and, I suppose, be grown-ups and sit at a table with each other and come to a decision about - not only the end of this season and what the next few months look like but the professional game in this country for the next few decades - it doesn't give you great confidence," Boogaard said.
McKinna said Newcastle's players and staff were "all up to speed with where things are at".
"From the club's point of view, I keep Boogs informed and he notifies the boys. But I can understand if they're a bit frustrated with the stuff that's happening at the top," he said.