The NRL is poised to shift the entire competition to Queensland in the wake of the growing COVID crisis in Sydney.
All nine Sydney clubs including the Penrith Panthers would shift north in an effort to keep the competition alive.
It’s understood the NRL will make an announcement within the next 24 hours confirming the shift.
It follows a decision last night to move Wednesday’s State of Origin match from Newcastle to the Gold Coast after the NSW Government refused to allow a crowd to attend the game.
“We are disappointed not to be able to give Newcastle the city’s first State of Origin, but we must operate within all State Public Health Orders and not having a crowd in Newcastle negates the opportunity for our fans from the region,” said NRL CEO Andrew Abdo.
Mr Abdo said relocating to the Gold Coast presented a low risk option and would not impact either camp.
“The Gold Coast has a very low infection rate and both Origin camps are currently located within driving distance of Cbus Stadium. It means neither team will be disadvantaged by travel,” he said.
“This is an exciting outcome for the Gold Coast. It will be the first time in history that the Gold Coast has hosted State of Origin.
“The Gold Coast is an important market for us and in the current circumstances presents a safe outcome for the community and a great outcome for our fans in southeast Queensland.
“It does mean all three games are played in Queensland, but our priority is ensuring the safety of the community and the continuity of the competition.
“I want to thank the Queensland Government for yet again providing their support rugby league.
“I’d also like to thank Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate for his strong advocacy for Ampol State of Origin to come to Cbus Stadium and the support of Destination Gold Coast.”
The NRL has growing concerns about its ability to run the club competition in Sydney while cases continue to grow.
Crowds continue to be banned from games but with recent bubble breaches and an ever-growing list of exposure sites across Sydney, moving to another state would be the best chance to keep the season running.
It’s understood the NRL was considering regional NSW hubs but given the decision about a crowd at Origin in Newcastle, it’s unlikely the league would get approval to run such hubs.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.