Rugby showcase may be moved to Kiwis’ home


NRL considers moving Grand Final to New Zealand Image: NRL

The National Rugby League (NRL) will consider moving the Grand Final to New Zealand (scheduled to be held in Australia on October 3rd, 2021) going by the high surge in COVID-19 cases in Australia. The NRL authorities were “pretty impressed” after watching the Australia national rugby union team Wallabies play the New Zealand national rugby union team All Blacks in front of a huge crowd at Auckland’s Eden Park in New Zealand.

‘stuff’ stated that desperate to play the biggest game of the season in front of a crowd, the NRL Chief Executive Andrew Abdo confirmed that he would investigate the idea because of the volatile COVID-19 infection rate in Australia’s Eastern States.

A near-capacity crowd of 47,000 attended the Bledisloe Cup fixture on the night of August 7th, which the All Blacks won 33-25. The second matchup will be played at the same venue on August 14th with a similar turnout expected.

The National Rugby League (NRL) is Australia’s top-level domestic men’s rugby league club competition. It contains clubs from the original Sydney club Rugby League competition, which had been running continuously since 1908. A single team from New Zealand also plays in the league.

The NRL Grand Final, which determines the Australian rugby league football season’s premiers, is one of Australia’s major sporting events and one of the largest attended club championship events in the world.

The Australia national rugby union team, nicknamed the Wallabies, is the representative national team in the sport of rugby union for the nation of Australia. The team first played at Sydney in 1899, winning their first test match against the touring British Isles team.

The New Zealand men’s national rugby union team, commonly known as the All Blacks, represents New Zealand in men’s international rugby union, which is considered the country’s national sport. The team won the Rugby World Cup in 1987, 2011 and 2015.

The 50,000-capacity Eden Park is New Zealand’s largest sports stadium. Located in Central Auckland, New Zealand’s largest City, it is three kilometers Southwest of the central business district (CBD), on the boundary between the suburbs of Mount Eden and Kingsland.

The Bledisloe Cup is a rugby union competition between the national teams of Australia and New Zealand that has been contested since the 1930s.

‘stuff’ further stated that the NRL will make a definitive call on the location of its Grand Final at the start of the finals series.

The 52,500-capacity Brisbane’s (Australia) Suncorp Stadium remains the preferred location, and its chances of holding match firmed after it was announced on August 9th that the City’s lockdown was being lifted.

But Abdo said the sight of a near-full house attending the Bledisloe Cup had given the NRL “food for thought”.

He added, “An opportunity to play under an exemption in New Zealand, in front of a full house, is an option if we can’t play elsewhere in Australia. The match between the Wallabies and All Blacks means we have a precedent in terms of getting an exemption from the New Zealand Government. Those exemptions are based on economic impact and the Grand Final would qualify for that.”

The smart money remains on Brisbane hosting the event, given that NRL has relocated the entire competition to South-East Queensland because of the worsening COVID-19 situation in Sydney and other parts of New South Wales.

There is a push for the decider to be played at the 1,00,024-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) in Australia with the rugby league club Melbourne Storm Chairman Matt Tripp and part-owner Bart Campbell trying to pull off a coup behind-the-scenes.

While the 60,000-capacity Optus Stadium in Perth (Australia) is also a valid option and has recently hosted a State of Origin match, Auckland is preferable because, as the home of the professional rugby league football club New Zealand Warriors, it is an active rugby league market.

The NRL hopes to offset the millions of dollars spent on relocating teams to Queensland by selling the Grand Final to the highest bidder.

To do that, though, it needs a venue that can host spectators.

The coronavirus scenario in New Zealand is stable with the island country reporting just two new cases of COVID-19 infections, with none in the community.

Nevertheless, relocating just one match to Auckland would be problematic. The New Zealand Government gave the Wallabies an exemption to travel to the country without having to quarantine for 14 days after suspending the travel bubble between the two countries for eight weeks.

If the NRL was to play the match in New Zealand, it would require a similar exemption because 14-day quarantine wouldn’t be possible for two Grand Final teams.

Stated Abdo, “We’re not ruling anything out at this point. You want the Grand Final to be played in front of a crowd, giving fans an opportunity to watch the climax to the season live. But we genuinely can’t answer where it will be played until we have a clearer picture of the infection rates in each market and whichever Government’s relevant policy at the time.”

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