Will Chambers says he “made a mistake” by breaking the NRL bubble to attend the birth of his child but the extraordinary lengths he’s gone to, to return for the Sharks — and to keep his career alive — more than make up for it.
Speaking toThe Sydney Morning Herald, the Sharks centre detailed the 24-hour road trip he undertook in a bid to re-enter the bubble.
Chambers breached the bubble by catching a commercial flight to Melbourne to be by his wife’s side for the birth.
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That forced him into a 14-day isolation period, in which his ex-club, the Storm, came to his rescue lending him gym equipment.
The Storm also gave Chambers a heads up that Melbourne was about to enter a five-day lockdown. But this time, they couldn’t help him. So he took off on a road trip in a hire car.
“I made a mistake and I cost myself football time, which I can’t get back,” Chambers told the Herald.
“So I’ve been in level four lockdown with my family, training with equipment that the Melbourne Storm were kind enough to leave at my home.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I got a text from (Storm football manager) Frank Ponissi saying Melbourne were getting out to beat the border closures. So I had to get out as well, but I didn’t have a private jet to take me, so I just told my missus she had to get me in a hire car and I was driving to the hubs (in southeast Queensland).”
The Sharks are based in the Brisbane hub, but for Chambers to join his teammates he needs to not only finish his 14-day isolation period, but also gain approval to cross the Queensland border.
“I cleared it with (NRL CEO) Andrew Abdo and the NRL and hit the road from Melbourne to northern NSW (where he is waiting before being cleared to enter Queensland).
“I went inland to avoid any hot spots and drank coffee and didn’t really eat. My first goal was to cross the (Victorian) border. I had to get that done (before the lockdown).
“I didn’t want my body to relax, not for a second, until I found a spot to sleep.
“I ended up pulling up in a truck stop at Gundagai and tossing and turning for 90 minutes. It wasn’t real comfortable in the back of the car. I got some petrol and a bite to eat and just hit the road.”
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The 33-year-old comes off contract at the end of the season and knows that if he is going to get a new deal he needs to play as many games as possible. With just seven games left of the regular season to go, that was in the back of his mind when he made the decision to drive, rather than catch another commercial flight.
“The wife was a bit upset I had to leave in such a rush, but if I stayed that might have been me done — career over,” he said.
“If I got a flight it would have been two more weeks of hard lockdown in Brisbane but this way, a few days in an NRL-approved area for lockdown and I hope I can enter the bubble.”
According to the Herald, Cambers is hoping to enter Queensland on Thursday and then join his Sharks teammates the following Wednesday.
Chambers hasn’t played since Round 15 and won’t return to the field until Round 21. That’s four games missed — three more than the Dragons players that breached Covid protocols to attend a barbecue — and two games more than Jai Arrow, who snuck a woman into Origin camp.
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“When you look at it, I’m the bloke who has been hardest hit outside of Paul Vaughan (who was sacked by the Dragons) in terms of games out,” Chambers said.
“Jai Arrow copped a fine and games, but he was chauffeur-driven home and got a private jet back (to Sydney).
“Look, I’m not whinging, I made a bad call. And if someone said to me you have to drive all day and all night to play NRL as a kid when I was starting off, I would not have hesitated for a minute.
“And with the days maybe running out to press for a new contract, I’d do this drive all again.”