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Green Machine hits a red light: NRL team's anger at Qld's late border backflip

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Canberra have been forced into a last-minute change in travel plans for Friday night’s NRL preliminary final, with coach Ricky Stuart declaring it “another punch in the head”.

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The Raiders had planned to fly into Brisbane early for their preliminary final against Melbourne, and spend the day in a designated hotel in the city.

That plan had been in the works for several weeks, with the NRL having assisted in pushing for approval from the Queensland Government in the event Canberra qualified.

It would have allowed the Raiders to fly out of Canberra at 10am to have a meal at a Brisbane hotel and lie down before heading to the ground.

However, the NRL were told on Wednesday by the State Government they would need to have several COVID-safe measures in place for hotel staff, with only two hours to have them approved.

The Raiders deemed it an impossible task.

It means players and staff will now leave Canberra more than four hours later and be forced to head straight to Suncorp Stadium from the airport.

“That’s all changed overnight, which has compromised our preparation again,” Stuart said of the news.

“The Queensland Government got back in touch with them (the NRL) yesterday afternoon at 3pm … so it hasn’t eventuated.

“Typical of the Queensland Government at the moment.

“I don’t want to talk about it. It won’t affect us. It hasn’t all year, it’s just another punch in the head we have copped in the week leading up to the game.”

The Raiders had adopted a similar approach to the one they had planned when they flew into Sydney last week for their semi-final win over the Sydney Roosters.

It’s the latest in a hurdle in their season of travel hell.

The club have spent around 50 hours in transit to since the NRL’s resumption in May, where overnight hotel stays are banned.

That figure is believed to be close to double the next team in the competition, given they were forced to use Campbelltown as their home ground early in the season.

This will be their fourth trip of the year to Queensland, while they have also had one game in Melbourne and nine in NSW.

“That toughness under the jumper of these players is one of the assets I have as a coach here,” Stuart said.

“No team from the Raiders point of view has had the magnitude of this type of challenge.

“It’s no one’s fault, it’s just the challenge of an out-of-town team. It’s been a really difficult season.

“They’ve made it work because they are tough. They haven’t let it disturb the processes for us to get to a game.

“They haven’t let it disturb preparations. We just need to get to the sideline in the best physical and mental condition.”

-AAP

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