Origin-style NRL GF series could clash with iconic date
The ARL Commission is exploring a historic grand-final at Suncorp Stadium this season as part of a State of Origin-style best-of-three series decider that would deliver the NRL an extra $28 million in funding.
News Corp can reveal ARLC chairman Peter V'landys has fielded a proposal for the NRL to host three grand finals - including one at Queensland's home of rugby league - to generate extra cash for the code amid the coronavirus pandemic.
V'landys confirmed the proposal on Tuesday, adding: "It's an option that will be considered."
The concept will be passed to the newly-formed innovation committee, which will map out strategic events for the NRL premiership this year.
Under the blueprint, exclusively obtained by News Corp, Suncorp would host Game Two of a three-game grand-final series. A September 1 competition restart would see the Suncorp decider held on Boxing Day, with financial forecasts projecting a $28m profit from that game alone.
The document suggests the ARLC look at selling a Suncorp decider as a pay-per-view event given the NRL grand final attracts more than three million viewers annually.
Under the NRL's revised return-to-play schedules, a September 1 resumption would see the grand final played on December 20 at the SCG.
But with the NRL fighting to stave off bankruptcy following the COVID-19 crisis, every financial opportunity is being discussed and a multi-game grand-final format would enable the code to earn extra millions from one of its showpiece events.
The idea is the brainchild of former New Zealand Test forward Dean Lonergan and Brisbane Bombers director Nick Livermore.
Lonergan has experience in delivering major sporting events, creating the NRL Nines tournament in 2014 before brokering the Jeff Horn-Manny Pacquaio fight at Suncorp Stadium three years ago.
The Horn-Pacquaio blockbuster turned over $18 million - and now Lonergan has tabled a plan that would not only inject an extra $28m into the NRL's coffers, but give the Queensland people their first grand final.
"We have put forward a proposal to the NRL for a best-of-three grand final series with at least one grand final at Suncorp Stadium," Lonergan said.
"Nick (Livermore) and myself have done the budgeting and a Suncorp grand final alone would generate a $28 million profit for the NRL.
"I have no doubt the Queensland government would get behind a grand final this year at Suncorp Stadium.
"I've previously worked with the government to bring the Jeff Horn-Manny Pacquaio fight to Queensland and we could make it happen for the NRL.
"The Queensland people deserve a rugby league grand final and this is one way to deliver that."
The third game of a grand-final series would be held on New Year's Day. If a team wins the first two grand finals at the SCG and Suncorp for a 2-0 lead, the third game, slated for Townsville's new stadium or Sydney, would not be played.
Lonergan accepts traditionalists may baulk at the idea but argues a shortened season would prevent player burnout if two or three grand finals were staged.
"The NBA plays a best-of-seven series in their playoffs so it's possible to do it here," he said.
"Traditionalists may bag this idea but this is about solving the game's problems.
"Critics will scream and say it can't be done but we are in unique times and this requires unique funding solutions. We never thought we would see seasons suspended, staff sacked and wages slashed.
"Instead of the NRL asking for government handouts, this is a solution to maximise revenue in a shortened season.
"If the NRL plays a shortened season, the physical demands on players won't be as great. If we resume in September, players will play 15 games before the finals, so two or three grand finals is not adding any more games than they would normally play in a full season.
"This is about the game helping itself ... a Suncorp grand final is very do-able."
Originally published as Origin-style NRL GF series could clash with iconic date