Australian Rugby League Commission boss Peter V'landys has hinted that the remaining games of the season will be unable to return to NSW this season unless something drastic were to change.
The Daily Telegraph reported that after Sydney's recent COVID cases, especially with the high number of those infectious in the community, it would be unlikely that play could return to NSW this year, this would include the grand final.
While the case numbers alone are looking bleak for the league, V'landys admitted that it was the active cases in the community that were the statistics that were of the most concern.
“All I can say to you is that we have always based our decisions on the data and the data is not looking good,” V’landys told the media.
“The data is a great concern.
“And the one we look at is the (51) people who were in the community while infected.
“Unless they get that down there is always going to be the chance of other infections.”
According to experts, the Delta variant of COVID is nine times more likely to spread than previous variants. Due to the high number of active cases, locally acquired cases are likely to continue to rise in the near future. This would make it increasingly difficult to host NRL matches.
Even if the state got to a place where they felt comfortable hosting a grand final, crowd numbers would likely be significantly less than what would be capable in other states.
When asked about when a final decision will be made about relocating to NSW for the remainder of the season, V'landys didn't want to commit to a specific timeframe.
“The Commission has delegated myself and Andrew (Abdo) to follow the data and make the decision accordingly," he said.
This included a decision on the location of the grand final. If the final was to be moved the likely location would be Queensland.
Players have already been sent to Queensland hubs for a minimum of four weeks, but due to the current situation in NSW, that is assuringly going to be extended.
The relocated players are also close to fulfilling their quarantine period, which would allow them to integrate within the community. This would allow players more freedom and movement than they would be granted back in their home states.
Despite Queensland being favourites, Victoria would likely make a play to host the NRL grand final in Melbourne. The NRL could force the two states to have a bidding war for the rights to hold the showcase fixture.
The interest would come off the back of the recent positive figures and trends seen in Victoria. All locally acquired cases over the past few days have been in isolation throughout their infectious period.
The state is looking likely to be easing restrictions over the next few days. If the data keeps tracking well, crowd sizes could potentially rival Queensland by the time finals arrive.
Victoria has made no official statement about its interest in hosting the NRL finals.
Recently there was community transmission at sporting matches held at the MCG and AAMI Park. This was one of the main causes of the most recent lockdown in Victoria. The state could be hesitant in hosting matches likely to draw big crowds from around the country.
The ARL Commission will likely make a final decision once the COVID situation in NSW becomes clearer over the next few weeks.