Queensland is to host the National Rugby League (NRL) Grand Final for the first time after COVID-19 restrictions led to New South Wales’ withdrawal.
The entire finals series will be held in the state, with Brisbane’s 52,500-seat Suncorp Stadium to host the 2021 NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final on October 3 and Preliminary Finals and Stadium Mackay playing host to Week 2 of the Finals Series. The playoffs kick off this weekend with matches at Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Rockhampton.
The plan for the finals was agreed following discussions between the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and the Queensland Government after the NSW Government confirmed it would not be able to host matches due to the continuing lockdown in the state. Sydney, the spiritual home of rugby league in Australia, has held the NRL Grand Final and its previous incarnations since 1908.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said Queensland fans had long campaigned for a Grand Final and the organisation was delighted to reward that loyalty.
He said: “This year we will create history, playing the Grand Final in Brisbane for the very first time. This will be an historic moment for the city and a reward for the support the Queensland community has given us throughout 2021. This year will always be remembered as the year Queensland hosted all of our major events; All Stars, Magic Round, 3 State of Origins and the Grand Final.”
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said the decision to play multiple finals matches in regional Queensland rewarded grassroots fans who would not normally be able to attend finals matches. Games not able to be played in states impacted by tougher COVID restrictions this year have instead been held at smaller stadiums in Queensland.
The 12,000-capacity Sunshine Coast Stadium has hosted Melbourne Storm due to COVID restrictions in Victoria. Townsville’s North Queensland Stadium, which opened last year, has a capacity of 25,000, while Rockhampton’s 8,000-capacity Browne Park dates back to the 19th century. Stadium Mackay has a capacity of 12,200.
“Rugby League is part of the DNA of regional Queensland,” Abdo said. “A number of towns have played a key role in keeping the competition going and we want to reward those fans and councils for their support of rugby league. From every challenge comes an opportunity and this year has presented us with an opportunity to reward regional Queenslanders with finals games.
“We have fans far and wide and our finals schedule acknowledges and rewards our fans in regional areas with live finals football as well as southeast Queensland who has been home to our teams.”
Abdo said the NRL would continue to monitor the infection rate in Queensland and work closely with Queensland Health to keep the community healthy.
“Our priority is ensuring the health and safety of the community and we will continue to follow all public health orders and work closely with Queensland Health for the remainder of the series,” he said.
Last week it was announced that Western Australia will host the AFL Grand Final for the first time after the league moved its showpiece event to Perth’s Optus Stadium from Melbourne Cricket Ground in Victoria.