Wayne’s home help in quest for title joy
QUEENSLAND coaching icon Wayne Bennett will get a chance to win a premiership on home soil after Suncorp Stadium finally clinched a historic NRL grand final.
The stadium’s maiden NRL grand final represents a $25m coup for the Queensland government and rugby league fans in the Sunshine State.
The NRL confirmed the venue would host the decider on Sunday, October 3, after the NSW government agreed to a one-off transfer to Queensland in the wake of their Covid crisis.
The development came as music to the ears of Bennett (right), the NRL’S greatest coach who will begin his quest for an eighth premiership when his Souths side take on Penrith in their finals opener this Saturday night in Townsville.
Bennett has won six of his seven titles with the Broncos, including the last Queensland-based rugby league
grand final – the 1997 Super League decider against Cronulla at ANZ Stadium.
But this will be rugby league’s first legitimate grand final at Suncorp and Bennett has a red-hot chance to hold aloft the Telstra Premiership at the venue where he has celebrated countless wins with the Broncos and Queensland.
“It’s fantastic, as a Queenslander I am thrilled to see a Suncorp grand final,” Bennett said.
“I have to take my hat off to the NRL, Peter V’landys (ARL Commission boss) and the Queensland government, they have done a great job to keep the game alive.
“I was part of the Super League grand final in Brisbane, it was a great week then and Queensland people will love this.
“I remember 60,000 people coming to the Super League grand final, they had to bring in extra seating, so I have no doubt this will be a sellout at Suncorp.
“I hope we have a weeklong celebration. I’m so pleased the Queensland people have been rewarded.”
The NRL had been exploring a number of options during the fresh Covid saga that forced the competition to relocate to Queensland in July.
New Zealand’s Eden Park and the Melbourne Cricket Ground were touted as viable contingencies.
Melbourne Storm owner Matt Tripp also had brief dialogue with V’landys about buying the grand final himself and hosting it at the MCG.
But the NRL has opted to reward the Queensland government as a virtual goodwill gift for saving the competition
following NSW’S worst Covid outbreak.
V’landys has been locked in delicate talks with Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk for the past month and thanked the NSW government for relinquishing the NRL grand final.
“The Queensland Premier is a warrior for the people of Queensland and just keeps delivering for them,” V’landys said.
“I’d like to acknowledge the New South Wales government, in particular Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Deputy Premier John Barilaro and Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres, for working collaboratively with us to reach an outcome that ensures the health and safety of NSW residents and allows the NRL to showcase the grand final live to rugby league fans.
“This year we will create history, playing the grand final in Brisbane for the very first time.
“This will be an historic moment for the city and a reward for the support the Queensland community has
given us throughout 2021.
“This year will always be remembered as the year Queensland hosted all of our major events: All Stars, Magic Round, three State of Origins and the grand final.”
In a further boost for Queenslanders, the game will head to the bush during the playoffs with finals matches in Rockhampton, Townsville and Mackay.
“Rugby League is part of the DNA of regional Queensland,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.
“A number of towns have played a key role in keeping the competition going and we want to reward those fans and councils for their support of rugby league.
“From every challenge comes an opportunity and this year has presented us with an opportunity to reward regional Queenslanders with finals games.”
The build up to the historic grand final will begin this Friday night, when the NRL finals series gets underway.
Townsville will host a double header on Saturday.