Rugby league: PM tackles NRL plan – No Covid exemption for Auckland league grand final
The Prime Minister has effectively put the kibosh on any NRL bid to host its grand final in Auckland.
Jacinda Ardern said the Australian league competition would not be given special quarantine exemptions allowing the game to bypass Covid travel restrictions.
The NRL’s all-powerful boss Peter V’landys fears the October 3 grand final will be badly devalued if it is played at an empty stadium, because of the Aussie Covid lockdown.
He touted Auckland as a potential venue, telling The Australian: “We are keeping all our options open because our number one priority is to have crowds.”
The Wallabies are playing rugby tests in New Zealand, but Ardern said their situation was different to the NRL grand final.
The Australian rugby players had entered New Zealand on an exemption granted during a week-long window before the transtasman bubble was closed.
“That’s over now. The NRL teams would have to go into quarantine, just like every other New Zealander from Australia,” she told the AM Show.
It’s difficult to know how many Kiwis would attend the NRL grand final at Eden Park. But if the front running Melbourne and Penrith clubs made the final, it would be a game with plenty of New Zealand connections and Kiwis players including cult favourite Brandon Smith, the Storm’s high energy utility.
Newshub also reported there could be timing problems because the grand final would probably have to kickoff at 9.30pm to hit Australian prime time.
“I’m sure the Eden Park locals would probably have something to say,” said Ardern, who added the priority was dealing with “congestion” as they sought to bring Kiwis home.
Ardern said: “If the NRL put a suggestion to us, I’m sure we would give it due consideration. But those are all the factors that we would weigh up, and it would be a hard ask.”
V’Landys fears the grand final TV experience will be wrecked it the big game is played at an empty stadium in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane.
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