Running scared: NRL bails on QLD ... again

BRISBANE has been snubbed by the NRL - again.

Just days after Queensland was robbed of the chance to host the 2021 grand final, The Courier-Mail can reveal the NRL has cancelled a planned Brisbane launch for next year's season, but the game's governing body has denied running scared from furious footy fans north of the Tweed.

The October 29 event, to unveil the 2020 draw, was scheduled to be held at the Howard Smith Wharves beneath the Story Bridge, but has been hastily relocated to Sydney with the Brisbane booking cancelled yesterday.

It comes just days after the NRL trumpeted an "outstanding outcome for rugby league" by accepting a deal from the NSW government to keep the grand final in Sydney until at least 2046, thumbing their Sydney-centric noses at the chance to bring the showpiece to Brisbane in 2021 while Sydney's two biggest stadiums are out of action for redevelopment.

That game - as well as next year's grand final, will instead be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a decision sparking anger from Queensland fans and rugby league greats alike.

However, an NRL spokesman said the rescheduling of the 2020 draw reveal had nothing to do with a potentially frosty welcome for the game's powerbrokers in the River City, with the decision made to instead hold a launch for next year's Magic Round in Brisbane in the coming weeks.

Howard Smith Wharves was booked to host the NRL’s draw launch but the function will now be held in Sydney. Picture: Brisbane Tourism
Howard Smith Wharves was booked to host the NRL’s draw launch but the function will now be held in Sydney. Picture: Brisbane Tourism

Queensland Tourism Minister Kate Jones, who fought hard to bring a grand final to Suncorp Stadium, said it was disappointing to learn the draw reveal event had been moved away from Brisbane.

"It's a shame to hear the NRL couldn't make it to Queensland," she said. "But that won't stop us negotiating for new footy content.

"Events like the NRL Magic Round - which will deliver $60 million for Queensland over three years - are important for our tourism industry."

After the stunning decision to award consecutive grand finals to an antiquated cricket ground in Sydney rather than bring a decider to the world's best rugby league stadium, the NRL might not expect a warm welcome in Brisbane anyway.

However, an NRL spokesman said that had nothing to do with moving the draw launch.

"The NRL holds a number of venue options for the launch of the draw," he said. "Given that Magic Round will be launched in Brisbane shortly after, it was decided to hold the launch of the draw in Sydney."

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg might not have been popular in Brisbane if a planned draw announcement at Howard Smith Wharves went ahead. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg might not have been popular in Brisbane if a planned draw announcement at Howard Smith Wharves went ahead. Picture: Bianca De Marchi/AAP

Sydney's stranglehold on the grand final was threatened by revelations the redevelopments of ANZ and Allianz stadiums were facing lengthy delays, but the NSW government produced a last-ditch compensation package worth almost $20 million to appease NRL powerbrokers anxious at losing revenue by staging the decider at the SCG. However, the decision has been widely panned as a cash-grab.