Canberra emerges as surprise option to host Origin opener

Canberra has emerged as a shock option to host this year's first Origin blockbuster as COVID-19 threatens to wipe out Adelaide as an option.

The Sun-Herald can reveal there have been high-level discussions at League HQ about taking the November 4 interstate opener to the nation's capital.

A call on Origin I being played in Adelaide will be made by the end of the month.Credit:Getty

The second wave of COVID-19, particularly in Victoria and parts of Sydney, has left officials at the ARL Commission, NRL, NSW Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League nervous about how interstate travel will look by the end of the year.

Their chief concern is what happens if players are required to go into quarantine for 14 days when travelling interstate.

Logistically it would be impossible, given the NRL grand final will be played just 10 days before Origin I, with representative players almost inevitably featuring in the decider.

James Tedesco celebrates the Blues’ stunning Origin triumph last year.Credit:Getty

As of Saturday, the South Australian Government advertised NSW travellers needed to self-isolate for 14 days.

Should the uncertainty about Adelaide become too great, the NRL is determined to maintain the sanctity of Origin with one game in NSW, one game in Queensland and one game at a neutral venue.

Canberra is the most viable option as the neutral venue, given there are no restrictions travelling to and from the ACT.

The ARLC will follow the COVID-19 trends closely during the next month, knowing the Blues, Maroons and fans need clarity.

Melbourne is out of play for 2020 because of the city's COVID-19 outbreaks and the NSW-Victoria border closure, but is scheduled to host a game in 2021. Auckland is a neutral venue and officials there were keen to host Origin, but strict trans-Tasman travel restrictions also remain in place.

"At this stage, the NRL is committed to Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane," a source close to the negotiations said. "Plan B would be playing the game at a neutral venue on a low-cost basis. It could be a city like Canberra. There are a number of scenarios. We'll see what unfolds."

Game two on November 11 will take place in Sydney, most likely at ANZ Stadium – not the SCG – and game three at Suncorp Stadium on November 18.

NSWRL boss Dave Trodden was open to playing in Canberra if the ARLC chose to go down that route.

Trodden said the Blues and Maroons had started planning for Adelaide nine months ago, and now both states had less than three months to work out how to approach game one.

"We totally understand the complexities COVID has created when it comes to scheduling, but we would like to know soon where we are playing so we can plan," Trodden said. "I think everybody in the game accepts the model you play one game in Sydney, one game in Brisbane and one game somewhere else, and I'm comfortable if that continues in a place like Canberra."

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