NSW are unfazed by the challenge of having to win three State of Origins in Queensland to complete an historic series clean sweep, with Blues coach Brad Fittler declaring: “We will play anywhere, anytime”.
Gold Coast will host Origin III after the ARLC was advised by the NSW Government on Saturday that it would not allow a major event with a crowd to be held in Newcastle next Wednesday.
The Blues have had to travel to Townsville and Brisbane for the opening two matches of the series and were looking forward to receiving the State of Origin Shield on NSW soil but now have an unprecedented shot at history.
“It’s disappointing that we can’t play at Newcastle, and play in front of a NSW crowd,” Fittler said. “But we will play anywhere, anytime.”
NSWRL CEO David Trodden said no other Origin team was likely to have the chance of completing a clean sweep by winning all three matches in the rival state.
“As you would expect we are disappointed for all our fans in NSW who don’t have the opportunity to celebrate this great team winning the series,” Trodden said.
“But given the circumstances around the COVID-19 outbreak in NSW we understand the decision and are grateful for the opportunity to still play Game Three.
“Our goal is still the same, regardless of where we play. We want to make it a clean sweep and if we were to become the first Blues team in 21 years to do that, and do it by winning all three games in Queensland, that would probably be a record that will never be broken.”
While there is no community infection in Newcastle, the worsening COVID situation in Sydney caused the NSW Government to believe hosting a major event in a regional community with a crowd could create additional risk to the community.
Given that there would be no live crowd permitted at McDonald Jones Stadium the Commission held an emergency meeting and decided to move the match interstate to ensure a viable event and live match atmosphere as NSW chase a clean sweep in the series.
The ARLC is monitoring the COVID situation in Sydney and may consider relocating NSW-based NRL teams interstate.
“We are currently analysing,” ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said. “We will make a decision tomorrow or Monday.”
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson said clubs and players would do whatever was required to ensure the Telstra Premiership continued.
“It’s really tough on the NRL at the moment. Anything we need to do keep this competition going, we know how important it is,” Robinson said after Saturday night’s 22-16 defeat of Canterbury at Bankwest Stadium.
“I don’t want to move out of my home with my partner and my kids and not see them but if it means the whole industry – not just the players and coaches, but everyone – can work and sustain the income that comes into the game so all of us can work, then we will do what we have to.”
Gold Coast will host an Origin match for the first time in the city’s history and a capacity crowd of over 27,000 will be allowed to attend.
“We are disappointed not to be able to give Newcastle the city’s first State of Origin, but we must operate within all State Public Health Orders and not having a crowd in Newcastle negates the opportunity for our fans from the region,’’ NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.
“The Gold Coast has a very low infection rate and both Origin camps are currently located within driving distance of Cbus Stadium. It means neither team will be disadvantaged by travel.
“This is an exciting outcome for the Gold Coast. It will be the first time in history that the Gold Coast has hosted State of Origin.
“The Gold Coast is an important market for us and in the current circumstances presents a safe outcome for the community and a great outcome for our fans in southeast Queensland.
“It does mean all three games are played in Queensland, but our priority is ensuring the safety of the community and the continuity of the competition.”
Cbus Stadium at Robina hosted the first Indigenous v NRL All Stars game in 2010 as it was the home ground of Preston Campbell, who was the main instigator of the concept.
The venue has hosted the game four times – the last in 2105. But then in 2020 when the All Stars shifted to an Indigneous v Maori format, Cbus Stadium again was the host.
The stadium has been the Gold Coast Titans home ground since they entered the NRL in 2007.
It has a capacity of 27,400 and is an hour’s drive south of Brisbane, and 20 minutes from Kingscliff where the NSW Blues have been in camp.
SOURCE: NRL News