National Rugby League (NRL) club North Queensland Cowboys christened its new Queensland Country Bank Stadium today (Friday), with the opening match against Brisbane Broncos having been in doubt just hours before kick-off due to coronavirus.
The Queensland derby saw the Broncos emerge 28-21 victors in front of a crowd of 22,459 in what was the first game at the stadium. However, the match was preceded by an announcement from Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, that the coronavirus pandemic will lead to a ban on public gatherings of more than 500 people from Monday.
The NRL staged a meeting with its 16 clubs and decided that this weekend’s opening round of fixtures for the 2020 season would continue as planned, but the second round of games will be played behind closed doors.
Speaking earlier today, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg admitted that the coronavirus outbreak is likely to hit clubs hard, but added that the League is prepared to provide financial support for those that need it.
“It’s going to have significant financial impacts on all 16 clubs and the game,” he said. “We’re in unprecedented times. If they’re in financial difficulty we’ll keep them afloat. We’ll get through this together. We’re going to work through the next week and work out the impact for clubs. These are significant amounts of money for clubs over the course of the year.
“All 16 clubs are in the same position and listening to the same advice and getting into an alignment for this weekend’s games. If something changes we’ll pivot and assess it accordingly. The good part about State of Origin is it doesn’t start for a couple of months. Hopefully it changes. If we make changes now we might get the benefit of that in a month’s time.”
The 25,000-seat Queensland Country Bank Stadium has been developed at a cost of Aus$290m (£146.1m/€163.9m/$182.1m). It has 7,000 more seats than 1300SMILES Stadium, the former home of the Cowboys.
Queensland Country Credit Union acquired naming rights to the South Townsville venue in December.