Guardian sports reporter Matt Turner takes us inside Super League's behind-closed-doors bubble...

IN my four-and-a-half years with the Guardian, I have covered my fair share of Warrington Wolves matches.

I wouldn’t like to guess at the actual number but it will pale into insignificance when compared to our photographer Mike Boden, who was capturing Wire matches long before I was even born (sorry Mike!)

Neither of us, however, have experienced quite like what greeted us on Saturday as we entered rugby league’s Covid-secure bubble.

With Super League’s return being held behind closed doors at neutral venues for at least the next couple of months, numbers being allowed inside stadia are strictly limited.

In terms of written media and photographers, only eight of each were granted access to each day of competition.

As The Wire returned at Headingley on Saturday, Mike and I were among the privileged few.

Warrington Guardian:

Guardian sports reporter Matt Turner in position at Headingley

I normally settle into a routine when it comes to covering matches – start doing your prep the day before etc – but coronavirus has blown all of that out of the water.

It gives you so many extra things to think about, more in terms of your own personal safety and that of those sharing the space with you than anything going happening on the field.

For example, everyone attending had to pass a Covid-19 education module about how to spot potential symptoms and stop their spread.

On the morning of the game, we both had to complete a wellness questionnaire before 9.30am to affirm that we were healthy and symptom-free.

We still had one hurdle to pass, though – the temperature check on arrival at Headingley.

We were told any slight irregularity would result in us being turned away. In the circumstances, it is completely understandable but the prospect of driving all the way to Leeds only to fall at the final hurdle was a nightmare.

Thankfully, though, we passed and we could enter the ghost town.

Headingley is usually abuzz with excitement on a matchday, but there was a deathly silence as we entered the cavernous new South Stand. No band today, just a single masked steward waiting to guide us to the press bench.

Warrington Guardian:

The view from the temporary media bench at Headingley, with the regular press facilities taken up by the Sky Sports team

There is usually food provided for the media but not in this “new normal” – bottled water and that was your lot.

The media were in what is known as the “amber zone” while pitchside and the changing rooms was the “red zone.” Nobody – unless previously authorised by Super League – was allowed anywhere near the playing surface.

Even if photographers wished to swap ends at half time, they had to exit the stadium completely and re-enter at the other side rather than simply wander down the touchline.

While inside the ground, it was masks on but once outside, you could breath freely so long as you stayed socially distanced from others.

Given the amount of space we all had, it was remarkably easy. Finally, focus could turn to the action on the field.

It is no exaggeration when I say you could hear everything going on – the calls, the swearing but most of all, the hits.

I’ve seen several training sessions where the collisions were bone-crunching, but at game-level intensity it was at another level.

Some of the tackles really went through me, even from my vantage point high up in the Headingley gods.

Warrington Guardian:

Matt's vantage point at Headingley

The post-match ritual of taking a seat in the press room to hear the post-match thoughts of the coaches was no more – onto Zoom we went for a virtual conference with Steve Price and Tony Smith to minimise contact with club staff.

When all of this is put together, it is a lot to get used to but that is indicative of the times we currently live in. We are all making adjustments for the greater good.

Above all though, I just felt grateful to be experiencing the buzz of live sport again.