'What is doing': Investigation launched into 'ridiculous' NRL crowd

Sam Goodwin
·Sports Editor
·5-min read
NRL fans, pictured here during the NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and Newcastle Knights.
Crowds are seen during the NRL match between the Melbourne Storm and the Newcastle Knights. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

The capacity at Melbourne's home ground on the Sunshine Coast will be reduced by 1000 after concerns were raised by the NRL and Storm about social distancing.

Police and the NRL are investigating whether or not the crowd at Sunshine Coast Stadium for Melbourne’s clash with Newcastle on Sunday breached virus restrictions.

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Melbourne officials have requested Sunshine Coast Stadium management review their crowd control after questions were raised over the venue's hill area.

The stadium’s hill sparked concerns over social-distancing during Melbourne’s 26-16 win over Newcastle.

It appeared to be at capacity but five Queensland Health officials and police were in attendance for Sunday’s game and monitored the area.

Under Queensland government rules, venues can be filled to 50 per cent capacity as they ease out of coronavirus restrictions.

The stadium’s crowd of 5437 fell well inside that mark, with the venue able to hold up to 12,500.

It’s claimed that there were 2830 fans on the hill on Sunday - or 43.5 per cent of the 6,500 capacity.

The crowd for Sunday's match was slightly smaller than for the Storm’s opening game there against Gold Coast, which did attract the attention of Queensland Health.

At NRL matches in NSW the restriction on the hill is one person per four square metres rather than a percentage of capacity, which is why grounds such as Kogarah Oval looked empty in comparison to Sunshine Coast Stadium.

“We do need to go and review that because it is hard to maintain social distancing when you're sitting on the ground,” Queensland chief health officer Dr Jeanette Young said on Monday.

“I saw people trying to do that, they were on separate rugs for separate household groups but we just have to have another look at that.

The Sunshine Coast Stadium hill, pictured here during the NRL match between Melbourne and Newcastle.
The hill was packed at Sunshine Coast Stadium. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“They followed the rule but looking at it, because it's not a traditional seated stadium with proper seats, I think it's a bit harder to maintain that distance."

“They'll work through just how to make it a bit safer - that 50 per cent cap is better designed for where you've got formal seating.”

The Storm are due to play again at the ground on Saturday against Canterbury.

“Melbourne Storm have requested Sunshine Coast Stadium review its crowd management practices and capacity before the home game against Canterbury,” the Storm said in a statement.

“The stadium operates under a site specific COVID safe plan approved by Queensland Health and includes having Queensland Police in attendance.”

According to Channel Nine journalist Danny Weidler, the NRL are also investigating.

“NRL are investigating the possible lack of social distancing at the Storm-Knights game in a ‘packed’ crowd,” Weidler tweeted on Sunday.

“They have requested a report from the stadium and the Storm. The images on social media have caught their attention.”

Cameron Smith hurt in Melbourne win

Cameron Smith scored a rare try but left the game with a shoulder injury as Melbourne continued their surge in beating Newcastle.

The 37-year-old Storm skipper found himself in open space before lunging over awkwardly for his first try since round 20 last year

It put him equal with coach Craig Bellamy on 46 NRL tries, in his 423rd game.

Smith kicked the conversion but then hurried off after the restart inside 30 minutes, the club confirming a low-grade AC joint injury for the former Queensland and Australian captain that could see him miss up to three weeks.

It didn't distract his men though, with fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen scooping up a short kick to run 90 metres for a decisive try six minutes after Smith's exit.

That created a 10-point buffer the Knights were unable to peg back.

with AAP