NSW close in on deal to keep NRL grand final in Sydney
IT would be the grand final clanger to end all clangers.
In a week when the NRL's showpiece event was marred by a bevy of blunders, the biggest may be yet to come with the NSW Government reportedly close to finalising a deal to keep the grand final at the Sydney Cricket Ground for the next two years.
NSW cabinet will meet today to discuss a funding package to stop the marquee match being held at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium - the best rugby league ground in the world - in favour of remaining at the oval-shaped SCG until Sydney's stadiums debacle is finally resolved.
The latest twist in the long-running saga yesterday left rugby league legends from both sides of the border flabbergasted.
An NRL agreement to stage every grand final for the next 25 years has been on the verge of collapse since it emerged that neither ANZ Stadium or Allianz Stadium would be ready to host the 2020 or 2021 deciders, opening the door for Queensland's iconic Suncorp Stadium.
However, if the NSW Government agrees to a funding package to compensate the NRL for having to host the deciders at the smaller SCG, Queensland's hopes of jagging the ultimate intercept would all but slip away.
Just days after this year's grand final was marred by refereeing howlers and a man of the match controversy, Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones implored the NRL to deliver for rugby league fans.
"Given what happened on Sunday, you would hate to see another slap in the face for footy fans," she said.
"Football legends from both sides of the border, as well as the fans, deserve to watch the NRL grand final at a stadium built for footy, not an old cricket ground."
Former Queensland and Broncos great Willie Carne called for just one grand final to be played in Queensland.
"It's the best place to play footy," Carne said. "It's a disgrace not to have it played here.
"Just gives us one. The Broncos have been in the comp for 30-odd years and we haven't had one. It would be the best thing for the competition to bring it up here."
Former Queensland Origin great Gorden Tallis said he would be bewildered if Brisbane missed out on hosting the grand final.
"Queensland has done so much for the game so you would think common sense would see them rewarded for their passion," Tallis said.
"Brisbane has the highest average crowd in the NRL and we had over 100,000 people come to Magic Round.
"I would love to hear the NRL's excuse for not bringing the grand final to Queensland because it must be a good one.
"We're rugby league mad and not to support us, Queensland fans would be disappointed."
Even legends from south of the border agreed the grand final should be held at Suncorp while Sydney's rectangular stadiums are mired in redevelopment delays.
Former NSW origin player and coach Tommy Raudonikis, who has long called Queensland home, said he 'loved' Suncorp Stadium and it would be a worthy choice.
"The SCG is not a great ground for rugby league," he said.
"Why not play it at Lang Park (Suncorp)? "I love the place."
Former footy star Matthew Johns said Suncorp would be a 'spectacular' venue for an NRL grand final.
"It's the perfect opportunity for the NRL to take the grand final to Brisbane," he said.
"In the circumstances (NSW stadium delays) the NRL should allow Queensland to show what they can do with the grand final week.
"I've no doubt Brisbane would do it spectacularly well."
The Australian Rugby League Commission board will next meet on October 30, with the fate of the 2021 grand final expected to be a key topic on the agenda.
ARL chairman Peter Beattie said Queensland was a strong option for 2021 if negotiations with NSW did not work out.
2020 is already all but guaranteed to be held at the SCG.
"At the end of the day, we've put a proposition in front of the NSW government and we're waiting for a response," Beattie said. "If that proposition doesn't work out then Queensland-bound it should be. It's that simple."