Annastacia Palaszczuk has been accused of treating Queenslanders ‘like mugs’ over the decision to allow Sunday’s NRL Grand Final to continue despite a Covid-19 outbreak in Brisbane and surrounding areas.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton said there was ‘cynicism’ about the Queensland Premier’s apparent double standards in allowing the game to go ahead while being strict on other activities while the state battled four different Covid-19 clusters with six new infections on Thursday and dozens of exposure sites.
‘Everyone wishes the Premier well in her decision-making but there have been a lot of decisions at odds with common sense,’ Mr Dutton told the Today show on Friday.
‘When they’re turning people away from funerals and not allowing kids to repatriate with their parents across the border, and we have businesses going broke, people starved from seeing families and loved ones, and then we see the Premier holding on because of the NRL grand final on Sunday, that rubs people up the wrong way.
‘All of us are NRL fans and want to see it go ahead, but the health of people in Queensland is paramount and I don’t think the Premier should be treating us like mugs.’
His comments came after NRL boss Andrew Abdo admitted he would be forced to postpone the grand final on Sunday if Queensland goes into lockdown on Saturday.
The NRL Grand Final is expected to go ahead, even at 50 per cent capacity, the game’s boss Andrew Abdo said on Friday
Mr Abdo confirmed that the game would consider postponing the match and moving it 1,300km north to the Queensland Country Bank Stadium at Townsville, should the Queensland government impose a lockdown in Brisbane 24 hours or less before the event.
‘It all depends on when the [lockdown] decision is made … and as we get closer to Sunday, it becomes much harder, and so relocation and potentially postponement becomes more realistic,’ Mr Abdo told Karl Stefanovic.
Mr Abdo said that if a lockdown were called on Saturday, it would likely trigger the decision to postpone the decider and move it out of Brisbane, but that would necessitate a week’s delay.
‘We can move quickly – but we can’t put on a grand final within 24 hours,’ he said.
‘It is not fair to the fans in Townsville, and not fair to the teams in terms of their preparation. We would need to then work with everyone, and make sure that that move is done professionally.’
Queensland remains on tenterhooks over the possibility of a new lockdown in the state after a number of new Covid-19 cases were identified this week, including six cases on Thursday.
While health authorities have so far been able to trace the source of the cases, it’s understood the discovery of an unlinked case, or further seeding from known cases, would likely send millions of Queenslanders into lockdown.
The crowd for the grand final had already been reduced by 25 per cent as Queensland introduced Stage 2 restrictions in response to the latest cases, with up to 13,000 fans with tickets left disappointed as capacity was reduced from 52,000 to 39,000.
Ms Palaszczuk fiercely denied accusations she was delaying the call to lockdown to accommodate for the highly-anticipated NRL Grand Final
Yesterday, Ms Palaszczuk fiercely denied accusations she was delaying the lockdown call to accommodate the highly-anticipated game.
‘Let me make it very clear that the health of Queenslanders comes first and as soon as Dr Young says we need to move into lockdown, we will,’ she said.
‘At the moment that is not the situation.’
Mr Abdo revealed the game would go ahead even if the capacity figure were further reduced to 50 per cent.
‘At this stage, it’s 75 per cent, if that drops to 50 per cent, our aim is to still continue playing on Sunday,’ he said.
‘If there is a lockdown, and we see the infection rates rise, then we will have to react accordingly.
‘We do have our protocols in place, so we know we can play, but it is a grand final, and I think the Commission will want to make a decision that maximises the impact of our fans and we have to think of fans and playing in front of fans.’
After the announcement yesterday, Mr Abdo confirmed that refunds would be provided to ticket-holders on a ‘last in, first out’ basis.
‘The fairest way to determine who can attend the game is by prioritising the first 75 per cent to purchase tickets in each allocation. Any fan who no longer wants to attend will also be able to access a refund,’ he said.
‘I want to acknowledge fans who will now miss out on attending the grand final. I know you had been counting down the days to a once in a lifetime experience and this will be difficult news to take, but this decision is out of our hands.’
The NRL boss has revealed the landmark Grand Final could be postponed for the first time in history if fans are banned from attending the match (pictured, Penrith Panthers cheerleaders)
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has responded to the escalating crisis by cutting crowd capacity in the Suncorp Stadium from 52,000 to 39,000 (pictured, Rabbitohs fans last week)
Postponement of the grand final between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs would be the first time in the game’s 113-year history its showpiece event had been delayed.
The game was moved to Queensland from Sydney back in July due to the Covid outbreak in NSW, in the hope of having a capacity crowd for the showpiece event.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk warns the next 24 hours will be ‘absolutely critical’ in determining if the Covid restrictions need to be put in place to contain the state’s spiralling outbreak.
Residents in the southeast are currently holding their breath as the virus spreads to the Brisbane, Gold Coast, Moreton Bay and Townsville regions.
However, Health Minister Yvette D’Ath said the new infections were so far accounted for.
‘The current cases we’re seeing in Queensland aren’t the result of unchecked community spread – we know the source of these infections,’ Ms D’Ath said.
NRL boss Peter V’landys (pictured) remains confident the whistle will blow at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Sunday but said contingency plans had been drawn up
The emergency plans consider a deferral of the clash which would mark the first postponing of a Grand Final in rugby league’s more than 100 year history (pictured, Panthers players)
Of the new infections, four have been linked to an aviation worker, a man aged in his 30s, who first tested positive to coronavirus on Tuesday.
A pilot who was in Townsville – a potential back up location for the NRL Grand Final – was one of the new positive cases linked to the cluster.
Dr Young said she believes the cluster of cases was sparked by a meeting of aviation workers on September 20.
The fifth case was detected in hotel quarantine and the sixth case was a woman who travelled from the New South Wales region of Kyogle to her home at Camp Hill.
Police are currently investigating how the woman was able to cross the notoriously hardline border between Queensland and NSW.
Ms Palaszczuk has reminded residents they can help prevent another snap lockdown by wearing masks, getting tested for Covid-19 and getting vaccinated.
The clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Penrith Panthers has been shrouded in uncertainty since new Covid cases have emerged in Queensland (pictured, people in Brisbane)
Fans watch on during a South Sydney Rabbitohs open training session at Carrara Sports Complex on the Gold Coast on Tuesday
NRL boss PEter V’landys remains confident the whistle will blow at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, but said suspending and relocating the game was an option if no crowd was possible in Brisbane.
‘(Postponing) would be most unlikely but every option is on the table,’ V’landys told the Daily Telegraph on Thursday.
‘It is the least option we want to take but it has to be kept as an option.’
The top boss said the next 48 hours would be vital in making a final decision and said NRL staffers had proven themselves very capable in quick turnarounds.
He said negotiations with the Queensland Government had prompted the suggestion of Townsville as a back-up location, adding crowds were imperative.
Hopeful attendees were left on the edge of their seats on Thursday night with the anticipation of a text from the NRL to confirm their attendance (pictured, Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium)
Players greet the crowds of fans after a Penrith Panthers open training session at Sunshine Coast Stadium on the Sunshine Coast, Tuesday, September 28, 2021
TIGHTENED RESTRICTIONS IN QUEENSLAND LGAS
Residents in the LGAs of Brisbane, Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, Logan, Townsville and Palm Island have been subject to tighter restrictions from 4pm on Thursday:
Public and private gatherings
*Public and private gatherings have been limited to 30 people
*Aged care, correctional centres, hospitals and disability service providers will be closed to guests
Cafes and restaurants
*Hospitality venues will return to the 1 person per 4sqm rule and 1 person per 2sqm rule outdoors
*Patrons must be seated in venues when eating and drinking
*Dancing is not permitted
Capacity at stadiums and events
*Capacity will decrease to 75 per cent, including the NRL Grand Final
Funerals and weddings
*Will be restricted to 100 people
*A maximum of 20 people can dance at weddings
*Must be worn indoors, on public transport and ride sharing, and when social distancing isn’t possible
‘We believe it will go ahead on Sunday with the 75 per cent (stadium capacity) and the Queensland Government is confident they have contained it,’ V’landys said.
‘As I said, we have contingency plans but remain confident we won’t have to implement any of them.’
Ms Palaszczuk is set to choose from a range of options including moving the game north, postponing, or playing the game in front of a reduced crowd in Brisbane.
The NRL will be forced to comply with Queensland’s public health directives, with the premier yet to bite the bullet and plunge the state into a snap lockdown.
The highly-anticipated clash between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Penrith Panthers (pictured) is at this stage still scheduled for Sunday, October 3 in Brisbane
Hopeful attendees were left on the edge of their seats on Thursday night with the anticipation of a text from the NRL to confirm their attendance.
The premier’s slashing of crowd capacity to 39,000 for the game meant 13,000 footy fans were left disappointed, and advised to apply for a refund.
Fan activities attended by NRL players at the renamed ‘Wally’s Square’ in Brisbane’s CBD are also expected to go ahead on Sunday night.
Players will be forced to abide by strict Level 4 protocols which means they cannot physically interact with their supporters ahead of the big match.
Queensland won the hosting rights for the Grand Final after Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said fans would be safe to attend in the Sunshine State.
Dr Young said the slashed crowd of 39,000 attendees at the ticketed game at the Suncorp Stadium would be required to wear face masks.