Fears over State of Origin as NSW enacts virus lockdown

·4-min read
NSW Blues players James Tedesco and Nathan Cleary watch the national anthem before State of Origin I.
The potential State of Origin decider could be up in the air, with Sydney due to come out of lockdown just days before the third game in the series. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

State of Origin III, as well as a number of NRL games due to be held in Sydney, are in doubt after the NSW government enacted a two-week lockdown in parts of the state on Saturday.

From 6pm Saturday residents in Greater Sydney, Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong will be on stay-at-home orders until July 9, with 10 of the NRL's 16 teams currently in those areas.

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That includes the Warriors, who have been relocated from New Zealand to the Central Coast this season.

State of Origin III, to be held at Stadium Australia on July 14, is now in extreme doubt with the game scheduled just five days after the lockdown is due to end.

The NRL has acted accordingly in the past, moving the State of Origin opener from Melbourne to Townsville while Victoria was in lockdown at the start of June.

As the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney grows, NSW and Queensland are preparing to play Origin II in Brisbane on Sunday night.

All game-day staff in Brisbane who have been in Sydney in the past 14 days have had COVID-19 tests while all NSWRL players and staff returned negative tests before travelling to Kingscliff on Monday.

The regular NRL competition is set to resume after a bye with round 16 scheduled to kick off on Thursday night when the Sydney Roosters host Melbourne in Newcastle.

That game had already been shifted once.

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Three more games scheduled to be played in Sydney next weekend are now in doubt, but could proceed without crowds with greater Sydney-based NRL players and staff under strict bubble restrictions.

It's now expected the NRL will expand those bubble restrictions to include all teams to ensure the competition can go ahead.

The first two games of round 17, scheduled to be played within Sydney, also fall within the current lock down period and are also in doubt.

Manly are scheduled to host Canberra at Brookvale Oval on July 8, while South Sydney are booked to play North Queensland at Stadium Australia on July 9.

Paul Green coy as Blues training off limits

Queensland coach Paul Green has shrugged off NSW's attempts to rattle wildcard selection Reece Walsh as the shutters went up literally and figuratively on State of Origin eve.

Green addressed media after Saturday's captain's run but the Blues denied access to theirs, citing beefed-up COVID-19 requirements that have thrown another curveball at the Suncorp Stadium battle.

The Blues can wrap up the series with victory on Sunday after a 50-6 thumping to open proceedings in Townsville.

And they've gone on the offensive this week after the Maroons turned to seven-game, 18-year-old NRL rookie Walsh to play fullback.

The selection was slammed as desperate and weak by Andrew Johns and Phil Gould, while Blues coach Brad Fittler even insinuated the No.1 had a habit of diving to milk penalties.

Traditionally an open book under Fittler, the Blues had to be persuaded to offer an alternative media opportunity on Saturday but Green wasn't willing to weigh in when asked if the pressure of sealing a series in Brisbane had got to them.

Reece Walsh will debut for Queensland in Origin II despite having played only seven NRL matches to date. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Reece Walsh will debut for Queensland in Origin II despite having played only seven NRL matches to date. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

"That's up to them, we've done ours," he said.

"Don't go putting words in my mouth."

Green said he wasn't aware of Fittler's comments about Walsh but is confident the teenager won't take them to heart.

"He's milking penalties? I hadn't seen that but not too worried about it," Green said.

"He's got the confidence, the talent and the skill and I don't think the occasion will overawe him.

"He's been good, been confident all week, a sponge for info."

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