The first NRL grand final in the game’s 114-year history to be played outside Sydney will be held at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium after the New South Wales government admitted defeat in its hopes of hosting the title decider amid the current Covid outbreak.
In a statement issued on Wednesday afternoon, the NRL said an agreement had been reached with the Queensland government to host the remainder of the finals series, including the preliminary finals and the grand final on 3 October.
“This year we will create history, playing the grand final in Brisbane for the very first time,” the Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter V’landys said. “This will be a historic moment for the city and a reward for the support the Queensland community has given us throughout 2021.
“This year will always be remembered as the year Queensland hosted all of our major events; All Stars, Magic Round, three State of Origins and the grand final.”
As part of the deal between the league and the Queensland government, Mackay will host week two of the finals series.
“Rugby league is part of the DNA of regional Queensland,” the NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.
“A number of towns have played a key role in keeping the competition going and we want to reward those fans and councils for their support of rugby league.
“From every challenge comes an opportunity and this year has presented us with an opportunity to reward regional Queenslanders with finals games.”
Suncorp Stadium will be the just the fourth venue to host the showpiece event, after Stadium Australia, the SCG and the Sydney Football Stadium. The breakaway Super League grand final held at Brisbane’s Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre in 1997 is the only top-flight competition decider to have been held previously in Queensland.
The NRL had already decamped to Queensland before the start of week one of the finals series, which kicks off later this week.
Stuart Ayres, the NSW minister for jobs, investment, tourism and Western Sydney, said the state government had informed the NRL of the state’s inability to host the game on Wednesday morning.
“While it is very disappointing to miss out on this marquee event, it reinforces the importance of our community getting vaccinated so that events like the NRL grand final with crowds can safely return to our stadiums as soon as possible.”
Ayres added that he was looking forward to welcoming back the premiership decider to Sydney in 2022, “bigger and brighter than ever before”.
Brisbane had been the frontrunner to host the grand final, although there was some interest from Melbourne and the NRL had investigated the possibility of moving it to New Zealand.
Queensland recorded zero new Covid cases on Wednesday, while outbreaks in NSW, Victoria and New Zealand made the sunshine state, where the NRL’s hub has been based since July, the most likely option.