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Bluesfest cancelled, NRL exodus continues as virus cluster spreads

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South-east Queenslanders who would have expected this weekend to be a music and sporting feast for crowds at major stadiums and concert venues are now contemplating a much quieter Easter thanks to the uncertainty caused by Brisbane’s snap pre-holiday lockdown.

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The famous Byron Bay Bluesfest music festival was cancelled just one day before it was due to kick off with up to 15,000 people attending after a locally-acquired case of COVID-19 was confirmed.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard signed a public health order cancelling the planned Bluesfest over the Easter period, saying “this action is being taken to minimise the risk of the highly infectious COVID-19 variant of concern being transmitted in the local area, as well as across states and territories”.

“While the cancellation of Bluesfest is disappointing for music lovers and the local community, I hope that ticket holders would support Bluesfest and hold on to their tickets as I understand Bluesfest will be working on a new date as soon as possible,” he said

And the Gold Coast Titans, who were scheduled to play Canberra at their home ground, CBUS Stadium at Robina, this weekend but will instead join Brisbane in exiting the state amid Queensland’s COVID outbreak.

And the North Queensland Cowboys were due to play Cronulla at Sunshine Coast stadium, but that match will now be part of a double header with the Titans v Raiders game at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium at Kogarah in suburban Sydney on Saturday.

The Titans will fly to Sydney on Wednesday where they are expected to remain for at least the next couple of weeks, joining the Broncos on the road after they flew out of Brisbane on Monday following the Palaszczuk Government’s announcement of a three-day lockdown for the city.

The Cowboys will be able to remain in Townsville at this stage either side of their travel to Sydney to face the Sharks.

The Titans however are set to enter a hotel-based isolation similar to the Broncos, who have an exemption to train but otherwise are restricted to their rooms since flying to Sydney on Monday.

However, chief executive Steve Mitchell says the impact of having the competition halted would be much greater for the club and code.

“There’s no doubt it does have a commercial impact on you going through that but the NRL is very supportive,” Mitchell said.

“This is about getting the code through and making sure our competition is still being played and we don’t miss anything out of the draw.

In AFL, the Brisbane Lions’ home game against Collingwood at the Gabba on Thursday night has moved to Melbourne.

Broncos coach Kevin Walters said preparations had not been overly disrupted by their relocation but with new cases still emerging in Queensland, a potentially long stay on the road is expected.

“They told us, be prepared, pack for two weeks,” Walters told SEN Radio.

“That hasn’t changed, it’s probably looking a little bit longer at this stage with what’s going on in Brisbane at the moment with COVID.

“The good thing is the game will go ahead and that’s the most important thing for our players and also for the rugby league community, is the game continues, and we’re doing everything we can to play our part in that.”

The development emerged just hours after Melbourne’s home Good Friday clash against the Broncos was locked in to be played at AAMI Park, with Brisbane granted a travel exemption by the Victorian government.

There were concerns Friday night’s game would have to be relocated due to restrictions on travellers into Victoria from declared hotspots but the Storm confirmed on Wednesday the match would be played as planned.

“Thankfully, the NRL have worked through the protocols required to ensure the Broncos can secure an exemption and the game can proceed,” Storm chief executive Justin Rodski said.

AAMI Park will also continue to operate at 75 per cent capacity for the match.

Canterbury’s players and staff, who played Brisbane last weekend, have been ordered to self-isolate at home but can resume normal life assuming they all pass COVID tests on Thursday.

-AAP

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