NRL boss Andrew Abdo has revealed the league had to source 40,000 masks prior to kick off in State of Origin II for fans to attend the match in Queensland on Sunday evening.
Fixtures for State of Origin as well as the NRL have been thrown into chaos with Sydney going into a two-week lockdown due to an outbreak of the coronavirus.
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In an interview on Fox League program Origin Footy, Abdo shed some light on the logistical challenges leading to Origin II at Suncorp Stadium.
The Queensland state government ordered on Sunday that fans would be required to wear masks while inside the stadium.
Abdo said it had been a major logistical challenge to ensure both teams secured exemptions to travel into Queensland and to organised thousands of masks at short notice.
“There’s a lot going on and it’s been an incredible couple of days, you think: ‘here we go again’,” Abdo said.
“We planned for this, we went through it together last year and we got through it and we will get through it again.
“First, tonight, there was a lot of work to get the exemption to play and get the players up there.
“As late as an hour and a half ago we got information from the Queensland government to send an order to everyone going to the game they had to wear masks.
“We had to get 40,000 masks to be available at the stadium just for the game to go ahead with crowds in attendance.”
Abdo said the focus was on ensuring Origin II went ahead as planned before contingency plans would be implemented for the potential decider in Sydney.
The third game of the series could still be played in Sydney, Abdo said, but he added other possibilities were on the cards after the series opener was moved from Melbourne to Townsville.
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As things stand, Abdo said the default will be for the game to be played at Stadium Australia on Olympic Park.
The NRL will be hoping Sydney emerges from lockdown on the planned date of July 9, with the match to come several days later in July 14.
“The default is Stadium Australia. The game is scheduled for outside of the current lockdown period.
“If the NSW government gets the infection rate coming down then there’s every chance we play at Stadium Australia.
“Option two is we move to a regional area of NSW like Newcastle similar to as we did with Townsville."
Abdo also shed some light on the thinking around the NRL fixture, with any games scheduled to be played in lockdown areas to go ahead without fans.
The NRL's strict biosecurity protocols from last season would also be enacted again.
“The rest of the games in the lockdown area will be played without crowds and will be played out under our strict protocols like last year," Abdo said.
“That information and communication is going through to the clubs and the players to make sure they adhere to that. We will monitor the situation. We are looking ahead to the next couple of rounds.
“If we need exemptions to travel across the border then we will do and use charter flights accordingly.”
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