Safety concerns were raised after players lost their footing in the Canberra-Manly match. Picture: Getty
Safety concerns were raised after players lost their footing in the Canberra-Manly match. Picture: Getty

Sydney Storm: Smith and his men forced to relocate

Welcome to Sydney, Cam.

Vicious one day, "home'' the next.

The week after the Melbourne Storm were complaining about a so-called Sydney-based campaign taking Cameron Smith and his teammates to task over their go-slow wrestling tactics, the Storm will now make the Harbour City home for the immediate term due to the COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria.

It means Friday night's clash against the New Zealand Warriors will now be played at Kogarah.

 

The NRL was also forced to transfer Thursday night's clash between Penrith and South Sydney to Kogarah's Jubilee Oval due to safety concerns relating to the dodgy playing surface at Campbelltown Stadium.

 

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The Storm were also due to play the Sydney Roosters in a blockbuster clash on Thursday week at AAMI Park.

While the NRL was on Monday still waiting for confirmation where the Storm will be based, it is understood the two most likely options at this stage would be at Manly's Novotel or at the Pullman at the Olympic precinct.

It is unknown how long the Storm will be staying in Sydney.

"They will definitely be in Sydney," NRL acting chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

"We will be bringing them up on Wednesday.

"We are just working with the Storm on their preferred location but it obviously has to be within certain parameters."

It is understood if this is forced to be ongoing their preference would be to move on to Queensland if they can't return to Melbourne.

 

Cameron Smith will lead his “Sydney Storm” in a foreign land. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty
Cameron Smith will lead his “Sydney Storm” in a foreign land. Picture: Ryan Pierse/Getty

 

Abdo said while Friday's game was locked in for Kogarah, it won't be decided until later in the week how long this relocation will be for - and where they will be based if it is to be for a sustained period.

It follows the Queensland government's decision to change its public health orders based on the increased infection rates in Victoria.

Those orders state that anyone from Victoria would be required to be quarantined for a period of 14 days.

"For example, any team going and playing the Storm would have to be quarantined before going to play a game in Queensland," Abdo explained.

"That would obviously affect us quite significantly.

"Our second issue was obviously our concern for the safety and welfare for the Storm players and officials in the 'bubble' given the high infection rate in Melbourne, and the hot spots are in and around the Melbourne CBD, particularly AAMI Park and those areas."

 

 

 

Dylan Walker faces a lengthy stint on the sideline with a foot injury. Picture: AAP
Dylan Walker faces a lengthy stint on the sideline with a foot injury. Picture: AAP

 

 

As a result the NRL met with the Apollo Project's medical group on Sunday. Then on Monday meetings with the Storm were followed by the decision was made to relocate Friday night's match against the Warriors.

"Everyone has been really cooperative," Abdo said.

"We always said safety comes first. We want to protect the players and we also want to protect the competition and keep going.

"To be honest everyone has been very supportive and now we have to work through what the more medium term solution looks like.

"It all depends on the data that comes out of Victoria in the next couple of days on infection rates and then it depends on state government policies.

"We will be ready for whatever scenario we have to face."

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys was once again proud of the way the game has pulled together.

"We always analyse the risk and we always look at the data and in this instance we believe there is a risk and we don't want to take that risk," V'landys said.

"The Melbourne club have been exceptionally understanding and we appreciate they are acting in the best interests of the game."

 

Danny Levi churns up the Campbelltown turf. Picture: AAP/Craig Golding
Danny Levi churns up the Campbelltown turf. Picture: AAP/Craig Golding

 

There have been 16 new COVID cases in recent days with Victoria facing 125 active cases.

Essendon AFL player Conor McKenna tested positive to COVID-19 on Saturday which forced the AFL to indefinitely postpone their match against Melbourne the following day.

Earlier on Monday NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian said the border with Victoria would remain open but residents should reconsider travelling to Melbourne given the recent increase of new cases.

Prop Christian Welch said players had been briefed around a potential hub relocation.

He conceded the move would put a strain on players with partners and school-aged children.

"It's pretty easy for me to pack my bags up and move wherever, I do feel for the guys with families and young kids going to schools and obviously their partners and wives, that's a big task on them," Welch said.

"I'm pretty sure all of our players would be more than happy to pack their bags for the greater good of the competition and to maintain the health of our communities."

Meanwhile, NRL head of football Graham Annesley was adamant the decision to move games from Campbelltown was not due to the injury suffered by Manly's star five-eighth Dylan Walker in Sunday's win over Canberra.

Walker suffered a fractured foot and is expected to be sidelined for up to three months after going down awkwardly on the unstable surface.

Asked if he had any concern that Walker's injury was the result of ground, Annesley said: "No, it (the switch of venue) is not as a result of anything that has happened. It is just that the amount of wear and tear and obviously the wet weather didn't help."

There were also other incidents where players were clearly lost their footing because of the surface.

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Sydney Storm: Smith and his men forced to relocate


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