The Gold Coast will host NRL matches on Friday, Saturday and Sunday night after the NRL announced two doubleheaders in a revised Round 18 schedule due to the relocation of teams to south-east Queensland.
The previous schedule of matches remains the same, but the locations for four games have changed after the nine Sydney clubs, Newcastle, Canberra and the Warriors were forced to shift to hubs in Queensland due to the current COVID-19 outbreak in NSW.
The updated schedule includes two doubleheaders featuring the Titans-Eels and Sea Eagles-Dragons clashes on Friday night at Cbus Super Stadium and Sunday’s Warriors-Panthers and Broncos-Tigers matches on Sunday at Suncorp Stadium.
Cbus Super Stadium will also host Saturday’s Raiders-Sharks match and Sunday night’s Rabbitohs-Bulldogs clash.
The remaining two matches are unaffected, with Newcastle travelling to Melbourne on Saturday night to take on the Storm and North Queensland hosting Sydney Roosters in Townsville.
The new venues for matches played from Rounds 19-21 are expected in the coming days.
Players and staff from the nine Sydney-based clubs, as well as Canberra, Newcastle and the Warriors, will shift to Queensland on Wednesday via a series of charter flights.
The hub locations for the 12 relocated teams are:
- Gold Coast: Bulldogs, Eels, Rabbitohs, Raiders, Warriors
- Brisbane: Dragons, Sharks, Wests Tigers
- Sunshine Coast: Knights, Panthers, Roosters, Sea Eagles
Each club is allowed 41 places in their respective hub. Family members will isolate separately on the Gold Coast for 14 days from Saturday before being allowed to reunite with the players if they return negative COVID tests.
Teams must abide by strict biosecurity protocols for 14 days and each time a team-mate or member of their club joins the group, the two-week quarantine period starts again.
This will affect those teams with players in Wednesday night’s Origin match and others who have players unable to travel immediately, such as Cronulla prop Aaron Woods, whose wife is due to give birth on Wednesday.
Other players are planning to return to Sydney for the birth of their children in coming weeks.
Any player who commits any breach of the COVID protocols or Queensland Government requirements has been warned that they will be “escorted from the state”.
“We have moved as quickly as possible to provide certainty to our clubs, fans and partners,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.
“Two doubleheaders across the weekend is an exciting outcome for our fans in Queensland. It gives them an opportunity to see four teams at one venue, in one day.
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“I’m particularly pleased that Storm fans, who have been starved of rugby league, will have the opportunity to watch the Storm take on the Knights live at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
“I’d like to thank all club staff and players for their monumental efforts so far.
“We are continuing the biggest logistical operation our game has ever faced, moving teams and families into their south-east Queensland hubs over the coming days. We hope to ensure as little disruption to the clubs and to the competition as possible.
“I’d also like to acknowledge the support of the Queensland Government for their guidance and efforts to support the relocation of our matches, as well as the Victorian Government who will be allowing the Storm to play at AAMI Park.”
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The relocation of five clubs to the Gold Coast was made possible with the support of the City of Gold Coast and their Sport Business and Attraction Program.
Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate said the city had a long history of supporting rugby league.
“Our support for the league goes back decades in this city and we are honoured to be able to help the NRL keep season 2021 alive,’’ he said.
“The deal to secure a ‘home base’ for the clubs, their support staff and administrators came through the exceptional work of our City Sport Attraction program. We can always make it happen.”