NRL could move competition to Townsville amid COVID-19 fears


THE NRL is considering moving the entire competition north to either Townsville or Darwin amid coronavirus fears, with the organisation now "pressure testing" the scenario.

And the NRL would have the support of Townsville civic leaders, including Townsville Enterprise and Mayor Jenny Hill, who both reckon the capital of North Queensland is "perfectly positioned" and will have enough accommodation available to host players and staff.

Townsville has so far notched two confirmed cases of coronavirus; Andre Reynaud who is currently in New Zealand, and LNP Senator Susan McDonald.

NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg yesterday said the idea of relocating the competition to the northern part of the country, an idea first floated by Wayne Bennett, was not as "farfetched" as people would think and was one of several scenarios the NRL was pressure testing and modelling.

The NRL will at this stage continue with its scheduled fixtures, albeit behind closed doors, as the game attempts to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

"It is more than a remote possibility," Mr Greenberg said.

"It is a possibility, absolutely. It is one of the scenarios we are pressure testing at the moment.

"It is an opportunity for us to consider, that we isolate the players for a period of time and continue to play those games. We are looking at a number of inputs and what that looks like. It comes with significant cost and complexity and logistical challenge but it is certainly on the table."

Townsville Enterprise chief executive Patricia O'Callaghan said the economic body was supportive of the idea.

"NRL officials saw first-hand on Friday night how well that facility performs and we know our community, particularly local accommodation and hospitality sectors, would welcome this initiative at a time local businesses are feeling the brunt of coronavirus," she said. Townsville City Council Mayor Jenny Hill said the forced cancellation of non-essential mass gatherings of more than 500 people nationwide meant Townsville's events calendar would be quite bare in April, thus freeing up a lot of space in the local hotel and motel industry. Other sports have been impacted by the virus pandemic including horse racing.

From today, punters will no longer be able to go to meetings, including those at Townsville's Cluden Park.

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