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Brisbane in box seat to steal NRL final as Blues implode again over stadium plan

Politics

The venue for this season’s NRL grand final is in limbo with the NSW government announcing the upgrade of several Sydney suburban stadiums has been placed on the backburner.

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A decision must be made on the grand final venue this week in order to release tickets, but the NRL is yet to commit to Sydney due to a stoush with the state government over stadiums.

As a result the game’s showpiece event could be held in Brisbane for a second straight season.

“Our door is always open,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said after news of the stand-off broke.

“We’ll have those conversations with the NRL.

“There’s always this argy-bargy leading up to a grand final. We will always have an open mind if New South Wales is not able to put that final on.”

At the heart of the issue is the upgrade of several suburban grounds, with money initially assigned for the rebuild of Accor Stadium at Olympic Park now to be reallocated.

ARL Commission Chair Peter V’landys claimed that NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet had twice promised him this year the refurbishments would go ahead.

Included in that is an April meeting in the premier’s office, where V’landys said the pair shook hands on the deal that would keep the grand final in Sydney until 2042.

The ARL Commission chairman said he had also spoken to Perrottet later in the year over the phone, when he was told to trust suburban upgrades would go ahead.

But a furious V’landys said that grand final deal is now in doubt, after the government confirmed on Tuesday night that upgrades of suburban venues such as Brookvale and Shark Park were no longer a priority.

“We looked the premier in the eye, we shook his hand we did a deal and he’s just blatantly reneged,” V’landys told 2GB.

“That’s the summary. When you when you do a deal and you shake someone’s hand you honour that agreement.

“How is any organisation or business going to do it make an agreement with a NSW government when it’s got a precedent of reneging?”

Speaking from Townsville, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk is daring to dream of a North Queensland Cowboys-Brisbane Broncos grand final in Brisbane.

With both teams sitting in the top five with five rounds to complete until the finals, the prospect of a home-grown local derby adds another tantalising layer of motivation for Palaszczuk to entice the season decider north of the Tweed.

“There’s always a lot of argy-bargy heading into a grand final,” she told reporters in the Cowboys heartland today.

“We will have an open mind if NSW is not able to put that final on.

“We will have those conversations with the NRL. Our door is always open.”

The NRL initially signed a contract with the state government in 2018 to keep the grand final in Sydney until 2042, conditional upon the $800 million Accor Stadium rebuild.

When that was put off during Covid-19 the deal was technically null and void, with the NRL hopeful a significant amount of the money would be switched for the refurbishment of suburban venues.

A $300 million commitment to the new Penrith stadium has already been made, but there was nothing in the 2022 budget regarding the rebuild of other grounds.

League bosses left meetings with the government in April believing a deal had been struck and venues such as Brookvale Oval, Leichhardt Oval and Shark Park would benefit.

However Premier Dominic Perrottet confirmed on Tuesday the stadium upgrades were no longer a priority in the state budget.

“The NSW Government remains committed to upgrading suburban stadiums however following recent natural disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic, it is appropriate that further investment in stadia is staged,” Perrottet said.

“The government has just received the Floods Inquiry Report, which will likely require a significant cost to the taxpayer and I note right now there are still 1366 people without a home in NSW due to flooding.

“It should come as no surprise that my top priority is therefore supporting those devastated by the major floods across NSW.”

The issue was an immediate talking point on Tuesday for NRL clubs, who had believed their stadiums would earn much-needed upgrades.

Cronulla will now be ineligible to host NRL-NRLW double-headers next year when their women’s team enters because of inadequate dressing-room facilities.

NRL powerbrokers feel the NSW government has backflipped on their deal, prompting a willingness to reconsider this year’s grand final venue.

But Perrottet argued West Tigers, the Newcastle Knights, Manly Sea Eagles, South Sydney, Sydney Roosters, Canterbury-Bankstown, St George-Illawarra, Parramatta and NSW Rugby League had received funding for centres of excellence recently to the tune of $1.8 billion when combined with CommBank, Allianz and Penrith Stadiums.

“Sydney will always be the home of rugby league and if Peter V’landys wants to take the grand final away from its home, then he can explain that to the fans,” Perrottet said.

Brisbane hosted its first grand final last year due to Sydney’s Covid lockdown and the Queensland government has long been keen to lure the event north.

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