Panthers has launched an audacious bid to help the NRL return to the field, offering to be one of the hubs hosting teams for a revised version of the competition.
With the Leagues Club closed, Panthers has emerged as a real possibility to provide a ‘bubble’ for the NRL given the club, dining facilities, a 222-room hotel, high quality training facilities and Panthers Stadium are all in close proximity.
It is believed Panthers presented the concept to the NRL yesterday and it will be seriously considered.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that one option under consideration is basing all 16 NRL teams in Sydney – eight at Sydney Olympic Park and eight at Penrith. Matches would be played at ANZ Stadium, Bankwest Stadium and Panthers Stadium.
“The players would go straight from the hotel into team rooms, training and dining options without having any contact with the outside world,” Panthers Group CEO Brian Fletcher told the Herald.
“We can create an isolated community, or bubble for that matter. The only time they would leave the facility is when the teams train across the road, but we could organise shuttles across into the stadium or training grounds. They can live through the hotel and club area while it’s all on.”
The NRL is hopeful to be playing football by May 28, albeit most likely behind closed doors with no fans in attendance. That would ensure at least some form of the competition is played this year, easing the financial strain on the code.
While the planned 25 round season now seems unlikely, officials are still hopeful of playing a 15 round season, plus Finals and Grand Final, as well as the State of Origin series.
Competition points earned in the opening two rounds will stand.