We don’t really care where Grand Final is held

There’s been an extreme amount of press, posturing and politics of late, centred around the location for the 2022 NRL Grand Final. Traditionally played in Sydney, there is speculation rugby league’s season decider could instead be transferred to Brisbane.

ARL chairman Peter V’landys has threatened to move the showpiece event to Queensland in response to the NSW government reversing a decision to upgrade three Sydney suburban stadiums.

Say what you will about V’landys, but he doesn’t mind a scrap, and will use any leverage he can when engaged in a battle. Be it guilt trips, personal relationships, money, fan “feedback”, political sway, or brute force, just to name a few of the weapons in his arsenal.

You get the feeling if you were unlucky enough to get into a physical altercation with V’landys, you’d be wise to protect your crotch, cover your eyes from potential sand throwing, and consider bringing a gun to a supposed knife fight. Yes, if we found out V’landys personal mantra was ‘Whatever it takes’, I’m certain we’d be shocked very little.

As such, it’s hardly surprising he’s threatening to move the NRL Grand Final out of Sydney, as it’s not mere pettiness, but also part of a wider agenda and ambition. It’s straight out of the V’landys playbook, and you can understand why he’s passionate about it.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter Vlandys speaks to the media during a NRL media opportunity at Rugby League Central on August 10, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Australian Rugby League Commission chairman Peter Vlandys. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

But why does anyone else care?

I’ll admit, when I first learnt Sydney could lose the Grand Final, I got my proverbial knickers in a knot. My general response was: “What? That’s crazy! It has to be played in Sydney!” Yet when I pondered the follow up question of “Why?”, I drew many a blank.

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Unless 11 teams are busted for major salary cap breaches, I don’t think my beloved Bulldogs will be playing on the first Sunday of October, so I probably won’t be attending. I’ll watch the game on TV, where it makes little to no difference where the game is played.

However, as hard as it is for me to believe, what I think doesn’t really matter, and there are others that may indeed care.

For instance, it’s easy to appreciate why the NSW government would be invested and nervous about the NRL’s crown jewel moving north. Said government is under immense pressure politically, reeling from one PR disaster to the next. With a state election on the horizon, getting Sydney rugby league fans offside – no pun intended – could be the final nail in the coffin for Premier Dominic Perrottet and the NSW Liberal Party, and V’landys wisely knows that.

The Queensland government cares too.

The COVID-19 lockdowns and resulting state government bickering and posturing highlighted that parochialism is alive and well in Australian politics.

So playing off the two state governments against each other is a savvy move. You can’t blame Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for wanting the NRL Grand Final. Apart from the economic benefits, it’s cheap political point-scoring. Which, to be fair, has proven mightily effective in the Sunshine State.

Yet it’s not just the Queensland government that would care. In scenes eerily reminiscent of many a NSW Blues State of Origin nightmare, Maroons fans must be licking their chops at the thought of stealing another game off NSW. The whole state would thoroughly enjoy yet another victory over their hated rivals from the south.

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Which neatly brings us down to NSW. Sydney’s tourism and hospitality industries would certainly care about losing the Grand Final, and rightfully so. We’re talking about people’s livelihoods here, and among the fun banter, we should remember to be sympathetic to them.

No doubt the Sydney-based NRL teams that are hopeful of making the ‘Big Dance’ (yes, I included that term just to trigger those that hate it!) would prefer the game stayed at Homebush. Yet, in the NATIONAL Rugby League, why should Sydney teams always receive the benefit of playing in their home city?

Penrith and Souths may have preferred to play the Grand Final in Sydney last year, but the sky didn’t fall when it was held at Suncorp, and I’m sure teams care more about making the finals, rather than where it’s played.

So then, with all those above groups covered, we come to the loudest and angriest demographic. The ones most vehemently against the NRL Grand Final leaving NSW: Sydney rugby league fans.

Why exactly does the average Sydney fan care? Apart from parochial bias and pointless tradition, it shouldn’t really matter where the game is played.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Nathan Cleary of the Panthers and Jarome Luai of the Panthers celebrate winning the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

If you were planning on attending the game, it would no doubt be frustrating having it relocated. Yet, we’re talking about an absolute maximum of 82,000 Sydney rugby league fans being affected.

I say ‘absolute maximum’ with a mocking grin on my face, because many of the tickets for a Grand Final are for the corporate crowd, rather than true fans. Throw in those that travel from outside of the city anyway, and the number of actual Sydney rugby league fans that would have been at the game dwindles way down from the already relatively small number of 82K.

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Some will argue Accor Stadium holds more people than Suncorp Stadium, and that would be factually correct. However, Suncorp is the far superior football stadium. Fact meets fact.

Is there any other reason to care? Anyone? Bueller?

There are many people that have a legitimate reason to care about V’landys threatening to move the NRL Grand Final to Brisbane, but when it comes to the most vocal opponents, I’m struggling to see a valid motive to really care.

A minute after the game starts, you’ll be watching on TV, and I doubt you’ll even notice the difference.

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