By Liam Emerton
It was an absolute shambles at Browne Park when the announcement of Rockhampton’s first regular-season NRL match was cancelled.
Two young South Sydney supporters burst into tears when the call was made that their team had been turned around on the tarmac of Rockhampton Airport with the imminent lockdown of Brisbane.
Despite the NRL players quarantined inside of the bubble, the two teams were forced to stay locked down in Brisbane while the NRL desperately scrambled to get the game underway.
Eventually, our match, which would have been played in front of a sold-out Rockhampton crowd, was played behind closed doors in the isolated Suncorp Stadium with fake noise echoing around the arena.
What is more infuriating for many fans is the lack of apology from the NRL, Queensland Government or the ARLC, because this has torn out a predicted $1 to $2 million from our local economy.
CQ Today has been informed that decisions by the NRL to move currently scheduled games will only be made after Sunday with the competition keen to keep an eye on the current Covid situation and lockdown in South East Queensland.
In a press conference on Tuesday morning Executive Manager of Advance Rockhampton, Greg Bowden touched on the cancellation.
“Unfortunately we did have that cancellation on Saturday morning. With history in our grasp with the Rabbitohs and Dragons. The Rabbitohs had actually landed on the tarmac in Rockhampton but the plane was turned around,” he said.
“The Dragons hadn’t left Brisbane but having had that cancellation it is a real pity. I feel for all those people attending the event.
“Whether they travelled from far or they were locals it was going to be a great event.
“We have assured people via email and text message yesterday [Monday] that we’d be processing their refunds as soon as possible.”
Bowden continued and had at least some good news to share about the event’s cancellation.
“The refunds don’t necessarily mean we won’t be getting another NRL game, we want to be very clear on that,” he said.
“We are working, as is the Rockhampton Leagues Club as is Queensland Rugby League, to get another game for Central Queensland and Rockhampton.
“Those negotiations will happen over this week and hopefully the Leagues Club and Queensland Rugby League can bring something back to council to see if the council can be involved in that exercise.
“I think the chances (of securing another NRL game) are very, very good. It would appear with what is happening in South East Queensland right now, although unfortunate, could be an advantage for us.
“Because we don’t see the NRL leaving Queensland anytime soon. So that means the region will play a part.”
In terms of the money poured into the event, which was $200,000 from the Rockhampton Leagues Club and $50,000 from the Rockhampton Regional Council, Bowden said the money was still there and on the table for the NRL.
“As a major sponsor, our sponsorship is still intact. We have incurred some ticketing cost, of course, that is a cost for us,” said Mr Bowden.
“But on that front, it is the Leagues Club which is the host of the event and the underwriter of the event.
“But from a city perspective, it’s really a ticketing cost and some minor marketing costs. Not a huge amount but hopefully that means when the Leagues Club secures another game that the mayor and councillors look favourably on that opportunity.”
Despite the Brisbane lockdown and cancellation of the NRL match the Professional Bull Riding event at The Great Western Hotel still went ahead and had a very strong crowd.