The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, has dismissed suggestions the NRL grand final may move to Queensland, saying any attempt to do so was “not going to end too well” for rugby league boss, Peter V’landys.
Before a meeting between the pair on Friday, V’landys warned this year’s final could be staged in Brisbane for a second straight year should the NSW government not meet its demands over funding for suburban stadiums.
But speaking at a press conference before the meeting, Perrottet shot down V’landys’ claims as “theatre” and said the league showpiece would be “staying in Sydney”.
The NSW government and the league are at odds after Gladys Berejiklian’s administration went back on a promise to upgrade the Olympic stadium at Homebush, now called Accor Stadium, as part of a deal struck in 2018 that would keep the grand final there until 2042.
The NRL now wants those funds to be reallocated to the upgrade of several suburban grounds – and appears willing to use the location of future grand finals as a high-value bargaining chip.
“We just want our suburban stadiums in NSW, we want that tribalism to occur,” V’landys told the Today show. “We want people to walk to the games. We want those promises honored by the NSW government. If they don’t we’ll take it elsewhere.”
But later on Friday Perrottet suggested the league boss was not serious about the threat.
“It’s all a little theater that Peter V’landys is creating,” Perrottet said. “It’s not happening. The grand finale is not going to Queensland or anywhere else. He knows that, I know that. Let’s have the dance, but we know where this is going to finish.”
While dismissing V’landys’ threat, Perrottet also suggested the NRL boss would face significant pushback from fans and the league if he did try to relocate the match.
“Peter knows all too well where the majority of NRL clubs are, they’re right here in Sydney,” he said.
“If he wants to turn his back on rugby league clubs based in Sydney and head to Queensland, that’s not going to end too well for him.”
The premier said V’landys had made the threat in an interview held outside Penrith stadium, which the NSW government has committed to spending about $300m rebuilding.
“He talked about [CommBank Stadium] the Parramatta stadium and he says that’s one of the greatest stadiums in the world,” Perrottet said. “Yes it is, and who built it? We did.”
Last year’s grand final between Penrith and South Sydney was switched to Queensland due to the Covid-19 lockdown in NSW and was played in front of 39,000 fans at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.
Annastacia Palaszczuk’s government on Wednesday would not be drawn on reports it had submitted an official bid to take the game from NSW, but said it was “happy to talk to the NRL about any proposal”.
But on Friday, V’landys said hosting rights for the game were “up for grabs” unless the NSW government swiftly committed to investing in suburban grounds.
“The deal was they would spend $800m on stadiums, but rather than spending it on ANZ stadium or Accor stadium as it’s now known, we want it spent on suburban stadiums.
“The government agrees with it but are so slow to move. We want ink on paper, that agreement in writing. Until we get that, the grand finale is up for grabs.
The NRL has every reason to try to stimulate some healthy competition between potential venues. Queensland would be a clear frontrunner should the game be taken away from Sydney but other states could enter a potential bidding war – including Victoria, where the 100,000-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground presents a mouthwatering option.
NSW, the game’s heartland where the majority of NRL clubs are based, had hosted every grand final since 1908 before Brisbane had its moment in the spotlight last year. Queensland’s capital also hosted the one-off Super League grand final in 1997, but otherwise Sydney has managed to maintain a tight hold on the game for over a century.