Grand final to Brisbane? English player to return despite exploded testicle, Annesley defends NAS call

The NRL is seriously considering moving the grand final to Queensland amid fears the NSW government will opt against upgrading several suburban stadiums.

The league is yet to begin selling tickets for this year’s decider as negotiations linger over stadium strategy.

A resolution is expected as soon as Tuesday afternoon, but the news may not be good for Sydney NRL fans.

Sports Minister Stuart Ayres said on radio on Tuesday morning the state had limitations on stadia spending, and further projects may have to wait. 

The NRL signed a deal in 2018 with the NSW government to keep the game’s showpiece event in Sydney until 2042.

However that contract was based on Accor Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park being upgraded to a rectangular venue.

That $800 million rebuild was put off through COVID, giving the NRL the power to make the contract null-and-void.

The league then pushed for a significant amount of the money to be switched toward upgrades of suburban grounds, with around $300 million already locked in for Penrith.

The NRL expected the remainder of the money to be spent on grounds such as Brookvale Oval, Leichhardt Oval and Shark Park.

Likewise, Cronulla are not yet compliant to host NRL/NRLW double-headers next year with their dressing-room set up, despite being awarded a women’s team.

Both the NRL and NSW premier Dominic Perrottet were confident a deal would be struck after they met over in the matter in April, however that is now looking less likely.

Ayers on Tuesday refused to buy into speculation a decision had already been made, or that the state was at risk of losing the decider to Queensland.

“As I understand the premier is still engaging directly with the NRL. These are ongoing discussions,” Ayres told 2GB.

“I think it’s really important that we continue to remind everyone that our government has invested substantially.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 03: Nathan Cleary of the Panthers and Jarome Luai of the Panthers celebrate winning the 2021 NRL Grand Final match between the Penrith Panthers and the South Sydney Rabbitohs at Suncorp Stadium on October 03, 2021, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“We have been really clear with the NRL with the limitations that exist on our budget. We have come through COVID, we have also invested substantially (in sport).”

Ayres pointed to money spent on rebuilding CommBank and Allianz Stadium, as well as the commitment made to his own electorate in Penrith.

“That reflects our three-city strategy. We have invested substantially in centres of excellence,” Ayres said.

“We have invested well in excess of $1.5 billion, part of that is to say we would like to have a long-term commitment from the NRL with the grand final.

“I think there comes a point where you have to be able to say we have invested enough in sporting infrastructure.

“And when we’ve got the capacity to invest in more sporting infrastructure in the future, there is no reason why we won’t.

“But we always have competing priorities. We have just had COVID, we’ve had substantial flood impacts that have put more pressure on the budget.”

Brisbane hosted its first grand final last year due to Sydney’s COVID lockdown, and the Queensland government has long been keen to lure the event north.

Winger keen to return from low blow

Newcastle Thunder winger Jack Johnson wants to return to rugby league in the near future despite suffering the pain of an exploded testicle in a training mishap last week.

The 26-year-old who plays for the club in the Championship, the second-tier competition below the Super League, was left in extreme pain after he was on the wrong end of a knee from a teammate during a training drill.

He was rushed to hospital and doctors removed the damaged testicle.

Johnson was able to retain his sense of humour, posting on social media: “What a load of BOLLOCKS.

Jack Johnson (right) celebrates a Newcastle Thunder try. ((Photo by Chris Lishman/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Jack Johnson (right) celebrates a Newcastle Thunder try. ((Photo by Chris Lishman/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

“Not my greatest Thursday ever, with the old testicle exploding at training. Had it removed last night. Will be back soon just a little bit lighter ???? #OBJ And as the saying goes RL wins again xx P.S does the swelling stay asking for a friend.”

English tabloid The Sun, true to form, used DONE HIS NUT in its headline on the story of Johnson’s gruesome injury.

Johnson, who has played for Warrington and Widnes in the Super League, has scored 10 tries from 15 appearances for the Thunder this season.

Annesley defends match reviewers afer Asofa-Solomona avoids charge

The NRL’s match review committee has taken the unusual step of explaining why it did not sanction Melbourne’s Nelson Asofa-Solomona after he planted his elbow into the face of Warriors hooker Wayde Egan.

Match review committee coordinator Luke Patten released a video during head of football Graham Annesley’s weekly briefing on Monday where he justified the decision to not charge Asofa-Solomona.

Asofa-Solomona was placed on report on Friday and Egan reportedly sustained damage to his teeth.

Immortal and Nine Network commentator Andrew Johns said the lack of punishment was “laughable” and claimed the intent was such that Asofa-Solomona should get a four-month suspension.

Adding to the confusion was the fact that Sydney Roosters prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was charged for using an elbow to the face of Manly debutant Zac Fulton on Thursday.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - JULY 29: Nelson Asofa-Solomona of the Storm runs is tackled by Josh Curran of the Warriors during the round 20 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Melbourne Storm at Mt Smart Stadium, on July 29, 2022, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Nelson Asofa-Solomona. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

Patten, however, said the contact was minimal in the case of Asofa-Solomona.

“There might be possibly minor contact at the end of the tackle with Nelson’s forearm to the neck and chin area,” he said. “That was a minor contact.

“It was a forceful tackle which unfortunately resulted in Egan’s head going into the ground.”

Annesley said injury was considered when determining a grading.

“It’s only a charge if a player is found to have breached the rules,” Annesley said.

“In order to have injury considered in grading there has to have been an offence committed.”

Meanwhile, North Queensland’s Jason Taumalolo has been fined $3000 after being charged for a grade one shoulder charge – his second of the season – on St George Illawarra’s Blake Lawrie.

Dragons forward Jaydn Su’A escaped with an $1800 fine for pulling Luciano Leilua’s hair in the same game.  

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