Brisbane the focus as NRL finals hit town

Brisbane will be the host venue for two NRL preliminary finals as well as the 2021 season decider.
Brisbane will be the host venue for two NRL preliminary finals as well as the 2021 season decider.

Rugby league fans in Queensland's southeast get their chance to back up the hype of their politicians as the NRL finals hit the bright lights of Brisbane this weekend.

After two weekends of matches across regional venues, Suncorp Stadium will host this weekend's two preliminary finals before a historic grand final at the venue the following week.

While the circumstances behind Brisbane winning the right to host this year's grand final are exceptional and driven by NSW's ongoing COVID crisis, the city has long lobbied to host a decider.

Whether it will get the chance in the future could hinge largely on the response of fans in the next fortnight.

Not one Queensland team remains in the finals series with three of the sides - South Sydney, Manly and Penrith - hailing from Sydney while the other remaining participant is Melbourne.

Nonetheless, the NRL will be anticipating strong attendances for their remaining fixtures.

It's understood just over a quarter of tickets for both of this weekend's matches at the 52,500 capacity have been sold, while the initial allocation of grand final tickets is almost exhausted.

The regional experiment, which featured matches at Townsville, Rockhampton and the Sunshine Coast in week one before both semi-finals were played last weekend in Mackay, was a qualified success.

With Suncorp Stadium having endured a heavy workload in the final weeks of the regular season as well as hosting last week's rugby union Tests, it gave the surface a chance to recover.

The move came at a cost however, with capacity limited to just 6000 fans at last weekend's semi-finals at Mackay's BB Print Stadium.

Saturday's 'Battle of the West' between the Panthers and Parramatta was one of the games of the season played in front of a crowd that could've been almost 10 times bigger had it been in Brisbane.

Speaking after his team's 8-6 win however, Panthers' coach Ivan Cleary was full of praise for the job Mackay had done in hosting finals football.

"It was awesome, fantastic, and it's just a pity it wasn't 50,000 people but you can only do what you can do," Cleary said.

"That surface is as good as anywhere I've seen actually, it's fantastic.

"The crowd were really into it, seemed like there was a good spread between fans cheering for both teams."

Australian Associated Press