NRL boss’ blunt response amid public backlash of continuing in QLD

NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley has hit back at the league’s detractors, and claimed the league was perfectly positioned to continue while Queensland businesses are forced to remain closed.

The Sunshine State was plunged into lockdown last Friday due to a recent outbreak of Covid, and attention immediately focused on the NRL and AFL who had fixtures scheduled across southeast Queensland.

However, the NRL was able to complete its round 20 fixtures in front of empty stadiums, and will do so again for round 21.

Speaking at his weekly briefing, Annesley admitted it was unfortunate local businesses were struggling, but the league had plenty of strict measures in place to keep it afloat that those businesses simply cannot do.

“We do play largely in a bubble,” Annesley said.

It was an eerie scene during the Knights’ clash with the Raiders, as they played in front of an empty stadium. (Photo by Handout/NRL Photos via Getty Images )Source:Getty Images

“I know that some people are probably not happy the NRL and the AFL gets the permission to continue when other industries are locked down and businesses are closed.

“But in most other businesses, in order to continue running your business, you have to deal with customers and clients and you don’t have any control over those people when you interact with them.

“Everyone that we interact with on matchday, is tightly controlled.

“We know exactly who they are, we know exactly what conditions they’ve been under in order to get themselves to the game.

“All of those precautions allow us to continue playing without placing anyone at risk.”

The Broncos’ match against the Cowboys was the last game played in front of a crowd. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Annesley elaborated further on the continued precautions the league had undertaken to keep the show alive.

“We’ve worked all through Saturday and Saturday night to increase our level of protocols to satisfy the government that we could safely play,” said Annesley.

“We obviously play in a closed stadium with no fans, we had massively increased precautions that we took.

“You saw the players with masks, everyone associated with staging the event.

“We believe, and the government believes, that the measures we’ve taken pose no risk to the general public because we’re only interacting with the people who are living together day to day and week to week.”

The Storm and the Panthers played out their top-of-the-table match at a deserted Suncorp. (Photo by Handout/NRL Photos via Getty Images )Source:Getty Images

It was yet another uphill battle for the NRL to lock in the venues for round 21, and there is every chance the fixtures could be moved yet again should the situation in southeast Queensland continue to shift.

But should things stay as they are, the fixtures will take place across four different stadiums: Sunshine Coast Stadium, Cbus Super Stadium, Suncorp Stadium and Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe.

Suncorp plays host to a triple-header on Saturday while three games across the weekend take place at Cbus.

Despite the heavy foot traffic bound to ensue across the weekend’s fixtures, Annesley has no fears the playing surface will significantly deteriorate.

An empty Suncorp Stadium will play host to a triple-header on Saturday. (Photo by Handout/NRL Photos via Getty Images )Source:Getty Images

“The great thing about both Suncorp and Cbus is that they’re both government-run stadiums,” said Annesley.

“They’ve both got full-time ground staff that work around the clock repairing pitches and making sure that they're in as good a condition as possible for each event.

“Of course, traffic on any playing surface, when you’re talking about grass, the more traffic you have on it the more impacted it will be.

“They’ve got all the latest equipment they need, they’re both in excellent condition.”

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