In response to the latest Queensland COVID-19 outbreak, the NRL has wasted no time and decided to move back into the bubble set up for the foreseeable future.
On Wednesday the NRL confirmed this by moving the two matches to be played in Queensland to Netstrata Jubilee Stadium for a Saturday night double-header.
Originally scheduled to play at Sunshine Coast Stadium, the Cronulla Sharks will kick the double-header off against the North Queensland Cowboys, followed by the Gold Coast Titans taking on the Canberra Raiders.
The Brisbane Broncos have also been granted exemption by the Victorian Government to travel to Melbourne for the Good Friday clash against Melbourne Storm at AAMI Park.
The Titans are set to arrive in Sydney on Wednesday afternoon, where they plan to stay until the NRL and health experts are confident the outbreak and risks of infection are contained. As a result, the fifth round match against the Newcastle Knights has questions hanging over it, scheduled to play at Cbus Super Stadium, if the situation isn’t contained the match will have to be moved.
North Queensland’s situation is more ideal for the club, with the Cowboys planning to fly into Sydney on Friday before flying out immediately after the match. This could be subject to change following a positive case in Townsville of a resident returning from overseas resulting in citizens rushing to receive tests. If scheduling does not change the Cowboys will return to Sydney in round five to play Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.
Having already relocated to Sydney following the third round, the Brisbane Broncos will be flying in and out on Good Friday for the match against the Storm. They’ll be required to follow strict biosecurity protocols whilst in Melbourne, however, they are already following strict rules in Sydney, only being permitted to leave their rooms for training purposes or to collect food in the hotel.
Similarly the Canterbury Bulldogs were forced back into the bubble after the round three clash against the Broncos, operating under similar rules that were in place during the 2020 season, and all players and club staff are required to undergo testing following the final training on Thursday before their match up against South Sydney.
The CEO of the NRL Andrew Abdo thanked the clubs for making sacrifices so that the season could continue without interruption.
“By confirming the relocation of games today all clubs, players and fans have certainty to plan for the weekend’s fixtures and as a game we eliminate the risk around whether those matches will take place,”
“I want to thank all clubs who are making sacrifices for the greater good of our game. These are difficult decisions to make but decisions that ensure our competition continues this weekend without interruption.”
Currently, five clubs are operating in bubbles or hubs, whilst the Queensland clubs are currently operating under stricter rules than the Bulldogs or the New Zealand Warriors, who are in a hub on the Central Coast for the 2021 season. Broncos captain Alex Glenn said the playing group is taking it day by day and keeping their spirits up.
“At the end of the day the Warriors did it for 12 months and I put myself in their shoes it’s definitely hard but I know all our families up in Brisbane have the support.
“It is definitely a sacrifice being away from your family, especially when you have kids, but in saying that we’re trying to keep the game alive for the other teams to play.
“Who knows how long it’s going to be but our team’s in good spirits, we’re ready for what’s ahead and we’re just taking it day by day and plan it like that.
“We are preparing for the worst but if we get back sooner it’s a bonus.”