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Peter V’landys says loyalty will be a major factor in the historic grand final decision with the Queensland and Victorian governments locked in a shootout to host the first NRL decider outside of Sydney.
As the NRL forges on with an uninterrupted schedule despite being forced to postpone Saturday’s matches due to a Queensland lockdown, ARLC chairman V’landys wants the grand final venue decided within the next three weeks.
Sydney’s escalating COVID-19 outbreak has all but ruled out Stadium Australia from hosting the decider – there were another 239 locally acquired cases in NSW reported on Sunday – paving the way for the first NRL showpiece match to be played outside of the harbour city.
It leaves the NRL with a choice between Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium or the larger capacity MCG, which had to forfeit the opening game of this year’s State of Origin series due to a COVID cluster in Victoria.
It would seem logical for the grand final to be played in rugby league heartland at Suncorp Stadium, a reward for a Queensland government which opened the state to keep the competition alive and hosted three Origin matches, two of which were at short notice.
All 16 NRL clubs are currently in Queensland and it’s looking increasingly likely the finals series will be played north of the Tweed with attention to soon switch to the grand final.
Melbourne Storm winning last year’s grand final.Credit:Getty
“We reward loyalty – and that’s one criteria,” V’landys said. “But the other criteria includes to maximise attendance, and the third criteria is to maximise revenue. The game survives on revenue and there’s a number of elements we have to take into consideration.
“I’ve got to stress it’s a decision for the Commission, and it will take all those factors into account. The Commission always acts in the best interests of the game as a whole and that’s the hardest part of our job. When you’ve got to consider the game as a whole it’s not always to keep everybody and individual groups on the same page.”
But the Victorian government has opened the door for the larger-capacity MCG to host the NRL grand final, which would be held a week after the AFL decider.
“That would be great for the code in Melbourne if we had the grand final there, whether we’re in it or not,” Storm coach Craig Bellamy said. “Obviously it would be a hoot for us too, I’d imagine. Our biggest job is going to try to get there. If we did make it, it would be a big shot in the arm for Melbourne.”
Our biggest job is going to try to get there. If we did make it, it would be a big shot in the arm for Melbourne
The NRL won’t tinker with its round 21 schedule next week despite being forced to delay five matches by 24 hours after the snap three-day lockdown in south-east parts of Queensland, announced on Saturday morning.
V’landys personally phoned Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, in quarantine after her trip to Tokyo for Brisbane’s coronation as Olympic Games host in 2032, to discuss how the NRL could play the rest of its round 20 matches.
All players and officials were immediately placed on level four biosecurity protocols.
If Queensland’s lockdown is still in place and crowds banned from matches next week, the NRL will consider playing it entire round at either one or two venues, pending the state of the playing surfaces.
The schedule will mean the Knights will be on a four-day back-up against the Broncos on Thursday night as they struggle to stay in the finals fight.
No team is usually lumped with such a short break between matches under a normal NRL schedule, but all clubs and players have been told to prepare for any scenario to keep the competition alive.
“I’m not even sure we’re allowed to even use the pool,” O’Brien said after Newcastle toppled the Raiders on Sunday. “I don’t know, hopefully we’ll get in the ice baths. It’s all about recovery. We won’t get any work I’d imagine on the field. It’s never been done before so I don’t have a blueprint for a four-dayer.
“At the end of the day we’re privileged to get the game on. We’re really grateful for what Peter and the Queensland government allowing us to come here today. It makes all those hoops you’ve got to jump through and hurdles all worthwhile when the game starts. If it’s four days we’ll get on with it.”
But O’Brien’s side will have a 10-day break before their next match against the Sharks.
V’landys is adamant the NRL doesn’t want to use any extra weeks beyond the scheduled the October 3 grand final to complete the competition if there were to be any further postponements.
The players’ families quarantining on the Gold Coast will still be allowed to join the NRL bubble on Wednesday.
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