The NRL has tonight confirmed that all NSW and ACT based teams will relocate to Southeast Queensland for one month to minimise risk of the Telstra Premiership being impacted by the growing COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney.
NSW and ACT Teams, including Penrith, will relocate to dedicated hubs by Wednesday and play home matches out of either Suncorp Stadium, Cbus Super Stadium or Sunshine Coast Stadium.
All Queensland based clubs, along with the Melbourne Storm will continue to be based and play home games out of their current home cities.
The NRL is finalising arrangements with the Queensland Government to ensure every club has access to appropriate facilities at each hub. Clubs will be flown on charter flights to Queensland and comply with Apollo Protocols and public health requirements to ensure no risk to the Queensland Community. Every club will be permitted a maximum of 41 players and staff while in Queensland.
A revised schedule with the location of games for the next four Rounds will be released in the coming days.
It means Penrith’s home game against Brisbane on July 24 will be played in Queensland. No other BlueBet Stadium matches are impacted at this point.
Penrith’s match against the Warriors this weekend will still be played on Sunday at 2pm, with a venue to be determined. It’ll be played at whatever ground is determined the Warriors’ new home.
The Commission will continue to monitor the data daily and review arrangements on a weekly basis. Clubs will return to Sydney as soon as the Commission believes risk to the competition in NSW has subsided. It is possible the relocations could be longer than one month.
Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V’landys AM said the Commission’s decision minimised the risk of the competition having to be suspended and protected the livelihoods of players and the many other people who generate their income from the game.
“The Commission has conducted an extensive risk assessment and it is clear from the current data trends that the risk to the competition is too great to continue playing in NSW right now. We are seeing close and casual contacts with links to our game on an almost daily basis,” he said.
“Queensland presents much lower risk. The Commission is doing everything we can to keep the competition going. By keeping the competition going we keep people employed and ensure the players continue to be paid at their current rate.
“Rugby League is also an escapism for people during difficult times and it’s important we do everything we can so our fans can continue to watch rugby league every week especially whilst in lockdown.”
Mr V’landys acknowledged the sacrifices players and football staff would make.
“These are very difficult decisions. I feel for the players who have to leave their homes for a period. 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,” he said.
“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 Chief Executive Andrew Abdo said the league’s Apollo Team was ready to implement the relocation.
“We have planned for all scenarios and we are ready to implement hubs in Southeast 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,’’ he said.
“Southeast 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.”