'Why risk it': Expert's staggering call to cancel NRL grand final

·Sports Editor
·4-min read
Liam Martin and Nathan Cleary, pictured here after Penrith's win over Melbourne in the NRL preliminary finals.
Liam Martin and Nathan Cleary celebrate Penrith's win over Melbourne in the NRL preliminary finals. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

A leading epidemiologist has called on the NRL to cancel or postpone Sunday night's grand final after a Covid-19 outbreak in Queensland.

The Sunshine State is grappling with two new clusters of Covid-19 in the community, and University of New South Wales epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws says the outbreak would be difficult to contain unless there was a short and sharp lockdown.

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A man in his 30s, who is an aviation industry worker, first tested positive for the virus and sparked a public health alert for multiple sites in Brisbane.

Queensland recorded four new unlinked cases of Covid-19 in Brisbane on Tuesday, raising concerns about this weekend's NRL grand final and a possible lockdown.

Professor McLaws said there are fears the grand final, due to be held at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Sunday with a capacity crowd, would be a 'super-spreader' event.

"They are going to have to think very fast whether or not [the grand final] should go ahead with the same number of people," she told the Nine Network.

"I would be surprised if they cancel it, but I personally think they should, so that they can get their vaccination rates up really high, otherwise what they are going to have is potentially an experience such as NSW and Victoria.

“I would postpone it or stop it, stop people from attending it because it really is a flashpoint. We saw the same sort of thing in Melbourne as well.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, pictured here addressing the media in Brisbane.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk addresses the media in Brisbane. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“They have done so much work in places like Queensland to keep it out but this may be a tipping point for it to get into their community while they are trying to get the vaccines up.

“Yes, it is an important event, but weighing it as an outbreak manager, you would be saying why risk this?”

Channel 9 reporter Jess Millward said the NRL and Queensland Government were having “crisis talks” about the situation, with Townsville "on standby" as a potential new location for the grand final.

News Corp journalist Brent Read said the NRL aren't at the stage of considering moving the grand final yet, while Channel 9's Danny Weidler said the decider would be staying in Brisbane for now.

The NRL grand final was originally set to be played in Sydney at Stadium Australia, however the state's Covid-19 crisis saw the entire NRL competition relocate to Queensland.

Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young said she has a "reasonable level of concern" about the situation and would assess all of the available information, right up to game day, before making a call on the grand final.

55,000 people had attended NRL preliminary finals

Queensland has one of the lowest rates for full vaccination in the country, with just 45 per cent of over-16s having had both doses.

The four new cases come after 55,260 people attended two NRL preliminary finals matches in Brisbane last weekend.

Another 70,000 people attended the RiverFire festival on the Saturday night.

Panthers supporters, pictured here during the preliminary final against the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium.
Panthers supporters cheer during the preliminary final against the Melbourne Storm at Suncorp Stadium. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Dr Young relaxed face mask rules on Friday night, mandating them only for when people are standing or moving around indoors.

Queensland had earlier reported zero new cases for Monday and Dr Young said people should "prepare and hope" for the state's borders to reopen in time for Christmas.

The borders have been closed to most of NSW since July 21, to Greater Sydney since June 22, regional Victoria since July 17 and Melbourne since May 28.

with AAP

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