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Nanjing Night Net

Sydney’s iron grip on the NRL grand final may be prised open after 2019, according to ARL Commission chairman John Grant, with the season showpiece likely to go on the road once every three years once the deal with the NSW government expires.

The move opens up the possibility of a grand final at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, which Grant also said stood to play host to a second team in the region to take on the might of the market-dominating Broncos if the game adds a 17th side in 2018.

In a revealing press conference after announcing new NRL offices in the Queensland capital, Grant said the Sydney monopoly on the traditional grand final could come to an end if rival governments came to the party with offers to host the game.

It is a highly topical issue given the prospect of two Queensland teams in the grand final as the Broncos prepare to host the Roosters and the Cowboys travel to Melbourne, all playing for a spot in next weekend’s finale.

NSW premier Mike Baird recently announced a $1 billion injection into Sydney stadia development, which NRL chief executive Dave Smith said would ensure it remained at the head of the queue for marquee matches.

But Grant was nudging Queensland to put its chips on the table, saying any upgrades to Suncorp Stadium would provide food for thought as the NRL laid out its future grand final plans.

“The NSW government has made commitments around stadia in Sydney and it will be reliant on having headline content,” Grant said.

“Similarly, there are discussions now about upgrading what is still the best special purpose rugby league stadium in Australia (Suncorp Stadium), if not the world.

“We will make sure we are responsive to the governments that are investing. We have to keep our options open but there are commitments being made.

“We use the State of Origin on a three-year cycle to launch rugby league and confirm league’s position elsewhere in the Australian community. We will do the same with grand finals and other big events.”

The Queensland government has been reluctant to add Wi-Fi and new screens to Suncorp Stadium, which many feel could start to be left behind as other cities modernise and expand their venues.

It can technically be expanded from its 52,500-seat capacity but that doesn’t appear to be on the radar. In any case, simply adding seats doesn’t always increase financial gains, with clever pricing structures one way of leveraging competitive returns.

Still, the stadium remains the envy of many. It is set in a prime inner-city position, has a world-class atmosphere, a long history and is surrounded by bars and restaurants that amplify the game-day experience.

“Capacity is one [thing] and what we create in Sydney for the grand final at ANZ Stadium is an event,” Grant said. “What we create at Suncorp is an opportunity to see rugby league played at its highest level.

“It’s about configurations but we’ve got a 52,000 capacity here … that is a very good crowd, you know what it is like in State of Origin. To get that intensity in this stadium with everyone being able to see what is happening on the field, I think that is a big plus.”

Grant also gave the strongest hint yet that the south-east region of Queensland was leading around the home turn in the race for the next NRL expansion slot. A number of bids are running in Brisbane, as well as in the greater west at Ipswich, a noted league heartland.

“I think south-east Queensland,” Grant said. “Queensland has multiple centres of high density and we have to make sure our NRL and Queensland Cup teams are appealing to those communities.”

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