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NRL demands report ahead of Optus Stadium’s Origin clash

Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) has demanded an urgent report into the state of Optus Stadium’s playing surface just days before the high-profile State of Origin clash at the Perth venue.

The NRL acted before the June 23 contest after concerns were raised about the hardness of the surface by the stadium’s Australian Football League (AFL) tenants, West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers.

The NRL’s head of football, Graham Annesley, told the West Australian: “We’ve been in contact with the stadium management and asked for a copy of their turf management plan for Origin.

“We will assess it and then make a decision about what needs to happen. We’ve asked for hardness measures, grass lengths, everything.

“It’s obviously a concern and we might have to send our own experts over later this week.”

Optus Stadium chief executive Mike McKenna said that he has “no concerns about what they will find”.

He added: “I acknowledge clubs believe they have an unusual number of lower leg injuries but I do notice there are an awful lot of injuries across the AFL. There is nothing to specifically link those injuries to the surface.”

A number of AFL players have suffered injuries since the stadium opened at the start of last year and the West Australian reported that the AFL Players’ Association has now joined the lobbying efforts for the playing surface to be made softer.

Dockers coach Ross Lyon told the same newspaper that the club had ceased training at the stadium and that a “summit” would take place with rival West Coast on the matter. West Coast temporarily halted training at the venue after key defender Tom Barrass was forced to withdraw from the Eagles’ round-five clash with Port Adelaide with a stress fracture in his foot.

State of Origin is considered by many to be Australian sport’s largest annual sporting event, pitching representative rugby league teams from Queensland and New South Wales against each other in a three-match series.

Image: Tama Leaver