The NRL has held its grand final in Sydney for the entirety of its existence – all 18 years of it. That’s right, you heard, me 18 years.
Should the grand final be moved to Brisbane? Absolutely, undeniably, without a doubt it should.
Should it be retained in Sydney permanently for 20 long years afterwards? Absolutely not.
Let’s start from the start.
The NSW state comp grand final should never, ever be moved away from Sydney. The NSWRL have held their grand final in Sydney since 1908 and all that wonderful traditions and history that belongs to it should remain there.
The QRL should likewise never move their grand final – it’s been held in Brisbane for the same length of time. Rugby league has been played in Brisbane since 1908, it did not come to Brisbane from Sydney, it is every bit as much a heartland of the game as Sydney is. This is one of the great strengths of our game.
The greatest thing that has happened in our game in the last 108 years was the creation of a national competition in 1997-98. The sooner that this is wholly embraced and decisions made with this at the fore, the better off our game will be.
I would like to see an eventual rotation something along the lines of Sydney, Brisbane, Sydney and lastly, the highest bidder (possibly Melbourne, Auckland, eventually even Perth, but always a capital).
For now, we should take the NRL grand final to Brisbane every four or five years.
A few things worth considering:
If the venue was solely about how many people would go to the game then why isn’t it being held at the MCG every year?
If was about bums on seats, why are they reducing the size of ANZ Stadium instead of increasing it?
If it’s about selling out the game, only the very arrogant would think that wouldn’t happen in Brisbane, no matter which two teams played. In fact a National Rugby League grand final would be sold out months in advance of the teams being known. It is my experience that club identity is stronger than code identity in Sydney, while the reverse is true in Brisbane.
If the venue is only about the bottom dollar, you can guarantee that a minor increase in ticket pricing would have no effect on ticket sales, especially if the event was in Brisbane only on a four or five-year rotation.
Keeping the NRL grand final in Sydney simply because ‘we’ve always had it here’, refers to either different competition or a very small slice of history, barely enough to call it a tradition.
I get that the NSWRL public had to be nursed into the national format, with changes only being made slowly – like, for example, holding the NRL grand final in Sydney for the first 20 years of its existence. NSW had a strong state competition and represented the largest population that supported rugby league. But surely enough time has passed now that the idea of a national competition has settled on the collective minds, and we can look beyond the suburban mindset that so stifles our code.
Let’s start playing to the strengths of our code instead of playing catch up with the AFL all the time. Let’s embrace our game in its entirety and take it to its potential, instead of using an old state comp as a crutch to prop it up (or hold it back).
Let’s move the grand final to Brisbane and announce to the world that we are the truly national football code in this country – before someone else does.