Operation relocation: How the NRL plans to keep season alive in Queensland

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The NRL feared it could have been shut down by the NSW Government if it didn’t move the competition immediately, with operation relocation set to cost the governing body about $13 million a month.

As first revealed by the Herald on Sunday afternoon, the NRL informed its 12 NSW and ACT-based clubs that they would be required to move to south-east Queensland for the foreseeable future.

Sunday’s Sharks-Warriors clash at Kogarah could well be the final NRL match played in NSW in 2021.Credit:Getty

Where will my team be based?

The 12 clubs will be spread across three hubs set up in Brisbane, Sunshine Coast and the Gold Coast. It is expected there will be four teams in each hub, sharing a hotel during their stay.

The Novotel Twin Waters will be the base for the teams on the Sunshine Coast, the Mercure in Carrara for the Gold Coast and Novotel Southbank in Brisbane.

The teams affected are St George Illawarra, Canterbury, Manly, Sydney Roosters, South Sydney, Penrith, Wests Tigers, Parramatta, Cronulla, Canberra, Newcastle and the New Zealand Warriors.

“We hope it is only for a month, but if it needs to be longer, it will be. We’re doing this to protect their livelihoods.”

Melbourne and North Queensland will be able to fly in and out to play away games. The Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans can also stay at home, despite the Sydney teams entering their respective regions.

Which venues will be used?

Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, Gold Coast’s Cbus Super Stadium and Sunshine Coast Stadium will host all the matches for the 12 teams.

Each team may not necessarily be allocated its own home ground, because of clashes in the schedule and broadcasting logistics between Fox Sports and Channel Nine.

Both the Melbourne Storm and Townsville-based Cowboys will be able to fly in and out for their away matches.Credit:Getty

Will the draw stay the same?

Each team will still play the teams they are scheduled to face off against in the 25-round NRL draw released in the off-season.

The locations will change based on the home teams. It is unlikely the day of the matches will change.

How much will it cost?

The NRL is budgeting between $12 million and $15 million a month to host 12 teams in south-east Queensland. It cost the AFL an estimated $60 million when it moved the majority of its teams for the final 14 rounds of the regular season and finals last year. The NRL teams may be away for 12 weeks.

With 12 teams including Jai Arrow and Adam Reynolds’ South Sydney heading for the border, the likelihood of the grand final being held at Suncorp Stadium continues to grow.Credit:NRL Photos/Getty

How long will they be in Queensland?

The NRL has committed to a minimum of one month in Queensland. The clubs are already preparing for the likelihood that they will be away for the rest of the regular season and finals if their team qualifies. There are eight rounds remaining, with the final match of the regular season scheduled for Sunday, September 5.

The NRL indicated in Sunday night’s phone hook-up that it was unlikely to return to NSW unless there was minimal risk to the safety of the players and the sustainability of the competition.

Where will the grand final be played?

At this stage the grand final is locked in to be played at Stadium Australia in Sydney on Sunday, October 3. The NRL will need to begin making contingency plans.

If the restrictions in NSW continue, the grand final could be played at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. It would be the first time the NRL has played a grand final outside of Sydney. Other options also include playing the match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The AFL grand final is set to be played at MCG the week before the NRL grand final.

The NRL’s financial situation is likely to result in the code settling for the highest bidder, however Queensland may not take kindly to that given the generosity they have shown in allowing 12 teams to cross their borders.

Will fans be able to attend games?

The NRL is still trying to negotiate with the Queensland government. The early indication is that the government doesn’t want any crowds for matches involving one of the 12 relocating teams for the first three weeks.

Early indications suggest the stands will be empty for the first three weeks of matches involving relocated teams.Credit:Getty Images

The clubs have pleaded with the NRL to try and change the government’s stance.

At the very least crowds will go back to full capacity after the first three weeks, but could be at maximum occupancy as early as this weekend if the NRL gets its way.

How did the NRL come to this decision?

The ARL Commission was locked in a meeting on Sunday afternoon, later informing clubs about the code’s intention to shift north for at least four weeks. ARL Commission Peter V’landys and NRL boss Andrew Abdo have been working on contingency plans for days. The NRL even moved State of Origin III from Newcastle to the Gold Coast on Saturday.

The move to Queensland was foreshadowed when Origin III was shifted from Newcastle to the Gold Coast just four days before kick-off.Credit:Getty

What did Peter V’landys say?

“These are very difficult decisions. I feel for the players who have to leave their homes for a period,” the ARLC chairman said. “We will not keep players in Queensland any longer than they need to be. We hope it is only for a month, but if it needs to be longer, it will be. We’re doing this to protect their livelihoods.

“This will also have a commercial impact on clubs. I have assured all clubs that the NRL will ensure they remain financially strong during this period. The NRL has found extensive efficiencies and commercial revenue over the last year which ensured the game is financially stronger than it otherwise would have been.

“I want to thank the Queensland Government. I personally have a huge debt of gratitude to the Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for her support of our game.”

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and ARLC chairman Peter V’landys last year.Credit:Getty

What did Andrew Abdo say?

“We have planned for all scenarios and we are ready to implement hubs in south-east Queensland to ensure the continuity of the competition. We will finalise the exact locations that teams will be based and the updated schedule in the next 24 hours,” the NRL CEO said.

“South-east Queensland has multiple stadiums, high quality venues to train, first class hotel infrastructure and a low risk of COVID-19 infection.

“Our game succeeds when we work together and I want to acknowledge and thank the clubs, the players and our partners. This impacts our broadcast and commercial partners and I thank them for their assistance and doing their part to ensure the competition can continue.

“We will continue to work closely with our biosecurity experts to track the data and consider the risk in NSW. We will also work closely with our clubs to ensure they have every assistance they require.”

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