NSW premier dismisses Queensland’s bid for NRL grand final | NRL

Queensland is prepared to step in and take the NRL grand final from traditional hosts, Sydney, amid uncertainty over future hosting rights, while one of the sport’s greats has suggested the Melbourne Cricket Ground should also be considered.

Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government on Wednesday would not be drawn on reports it had made a bid to steal the grand final away from Sydney but said it was “happy to talk to the NRL about any proposal”.

“Queensland is a global hub for major events,” a spokesman for the sports minister said. “We’re in regular contact with the NRL to secure more football content for Queensland.”

In 2018 the New South Wales government secured hosting rights for Accor stadium in Homebush until 2042, in a long-term deal with the NRL that was dependent on major redevelopment works being undertaken at the old Olympic Stadium.

At the time, then NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said there was a real possibility Sydney could lose the grand final to Brisbane had her government not committed to upgrading its stadiums.

But in 2020, the state government’s backflip on its promise to convert the ground into a more football-friendly rectangular stadium had reportedly left the deal dead in the water, and opened up the possibility of the game being taken elsewhere.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday claimed 12 months of negotiations between the NSW government and the NRL over the terms of the original deal were coming to a head.

The NSW government told Guardian Australia it enjoyed a “great working relationship” with the NRL and was currently working to secure “a significant package of matches for Sydney”.

“Sydney is the spiritual home of rugby league and renowned for hosting Australia’s greatest sporting events, including the NRL grand final,” said Spartesperson for Sports Minister Stuart Ayers. “Fans can be assured the NRL grand finale isn’t going anywhere.”

The NSW premier, Dominic Perrottet, who will reportedly meet with Australian Rugby League Commission chair, Peter V’landys, later this week, said the “NRL grand final will be played in Sydney”.

“No one wants the grand finale in Queensland, including Peter [V’landys]”Perrottet said. “As Peter knows all too well, we have invested record amounts in stadiums and sporting infrastructure.

“He also knows that having the grand final in Queensland is a bad outcome for the NRL, for every club and most importantly the fans. So he’s not taking it anywhere. ”

For its part, the NRL, which has been contacted for comment, has every reason to try to stimulate some healthy competition between potential venues.

The potential for a bidding war could even see other states enter the fray. Wally Lewis, a former Queensland player, said he would back any bid from his home state but added that Victoria could not be discounted either.

“Certainly everybody north of the border here thinks it’s an outstanding idea,” Lewis told Channel Nine’s Today program.

“I really do believe it’s going to be judged by the finances available and if I’m saying the NRL is chasing the biggest bidder, then it could possibly go to Victoria,” he said. “The MCG hosts 100,000 fans, it’s going to be very difficult to knock them back.

“If you’ve got a national rugby league competition, it’s extremely important for the NRL to share it around the country.

“Sure, you’re going to play the majority of grand finals in NSW, the home of it, but it’s extremely important to play the games here at Suncorp Stadium, and also Melbourne.”

Sydney, the game’s heartland where the majority of NRL clubs are based, had hosted every grand final since 1908 before Brisbane had its moment in the spotlight last year, when the game was shifted to Suncorp Stadium due to the Covid-19 lockdown in NSW.

Queensland’s capital also hosted the one-off Super League grand final in 1997, but otherwise Sydney has managed to maintain a tight hold on the game for over a century.

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