What happens when you take a vicious contact sport and strip out all the ambient noise? Australia’s National Rugby League found out.
As sports organizations around the world halted competition, the first two weeks of the NRL’s 2020 season went ahead largely as planned, aside from the lack of fans in the stands.
Playing in empty stadiums made for a bizarre environment. Most strikingly, it allowed fans watching at home to hear the unadulterated sound of a professional rugby tackle. Without the roar of the crowd, the collision of bodies could be heard clear as day.
In the U.S., we’re used to hearing loud tackles in football games. But that’s the result of the plastic shells of helmets and shoulder pads colliding. There is no protective equipment in rugby (except for the occasional soft helmet), so the sound you’re hearing is just flesh and bone colliding.
The NRL was one of the last sports leagues in the world still playing before finally announcing Monday that it was suspending its season due to the coronavirus pandemic. The league was desperate to keep going, even floating a plan to move every team to Queensland after the state closed its borders, but concluded it was no longer safe to play.