Back off Queensland! Grand final, Origin going nowhere
Deputy Premier John Barilaro says the NRL grand final is already "locked and loaded" for Sydney on October 25, while also declaring NSW as the one state that refused to turn its back on rugby league.
With all 16 NRL clubs now finally back in training, Barilaro has revealed the NSW Government will not be giving up the 2020 decider, after working so closely alongside Project Apollo to ensure the May 28 relaunch date.
Speaking with The Daily Telegraph, the Deputy Premier also suggested that with Melbourne Storm now based in Albury and the New Zealand Warriors quarantining in Tamworth, it was the entire state of NSW that - in a time of crisis - had proved itself rugby league's greatest ally.
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Barilaro added that, until recently, Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk wasn't only against hosting any games - including Origin - but also concerned about her state's three sides even competing in any resurrected season.
"Right throughout this crisis, NSW has shown it values the NRL more than any other state," Barilaro said.
"For a while there, everyone else wanted to bin it.
"You look at Queensland, where the Premier was saying 'no, no, no'.
"Then Brad Fittler gave her a spray, while I said a few words too, and once the premier realised how important rugby league is for her state - she backflipped.
"But we've fought hard all along to get the game up and running again because we understand its value.
"So there's no questioning now that NSW is the heartland and home of the NRL."
Only last week, it was revealed the Queensland government wants to host not only the 2020 grand final at Suncorp Stadium, but also two of three Origin games slated for November.
The move comes with Allianz Stadium currently levelled, ANZ Stadium preparing for redevelopment and the SCG potentially hosting the T20 World Cup.
The push gained even further weight on Monday when NRL biosecurity expert David Heslop revealed "mass gathering" crowds could be back at rugby league fixtures by the back end of the year.
Quizzed on the push to take the NRL decider north, Barilaro said: "The grand final is already locked and loaded for Sydney.
"So Queensland have missed the boat at that one.
"They're late to the party.
"So moving forward we'll work out a venue.
"But we definitely aren't giving the grand final up after everything we've done.
"And early on, I know a lot of the naysayers thought I was flying solo from a government perspective. But the reality is, we're all focused and from the premier down, nobody has ever said 'no'.
"It has always been a case of 'let's work through this and if we can find a solution - why not?'.
Elsewhere, Barilaro also praised the way regional NSW had pitched in to support both the Storm and Warriors, who after leaving Tamworth will then be based on the Central Coast.
Meanwhile, when it comes to Origin, the deputy premier said his government was happy for the NRL to decide on how the series is split.
"We've already said we're happy to host all three games," he said.
"But if restrictions come off and the NRL wants to get up to Queensland, we won't say no.
"It isn't only our game.
"But in saying that, if it wasn't for NSW taking the lead, none of this would have been possible."
Originally published as Back off Queensland! Grand final, Origin going nowhere