Return of coronavirus keeps NRL crowds capped at 1500 at Canberra Stadium

Raiders CEO Don Furner says the club is happy to comply with restrictions. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Raiders CEO Don Furner says the club is happy to comply with restrictions. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The Canberra Raiders are prepared to wear another financial hit in the hope they can welcome bigger crowds back to Canberra Stadium in a fortnight.

The return of the coronavirus to the capital has forced the ACT government to cap ticketed spectators at Canberra Stadium at 1500, scuppering plans to lift the number to almost 6000.

Four new cases emerging in the ACT over the past 48 hours have seen the government's plans to ease restrictions delayed by at least two weeks.

The Raiders have already sold their allocation of 1500 tickets for their clash with the Melbourne Storm at Canberra Stadium on Saturday night.

The club was poised to offer 5974 ticketed seats for their round-nine clash with Melbourne on Saturday night, with a total attendance of about 6500 including corporates.

Raiders chief executive Don Furner is hoping the coronavirus can be contained in the ACT again in the hope of hosting a bigger crowd for a clash with the South Sydney Rabbitohs on July 25.

"That would be great, Souths are a great drawcard so that would be fantastic. We're in the hands of the chief health officer and we're more than happy to comply," Furner said.

"We're going to comply, there are no problems with that. We've already sold what we can [for this week's game against Melbourne] so that will be the end of it.

"I just checked before, and because it got out [on Wednesday that there had been cases in Canberra], we put a stop to sales. We were just under the 1500 anyway and we just got to it [on Thursday].

"It's still members only, so I think we've handled it okay. We'll plan ahead hopefully for more for the Souths game but we'll see how we go."

Crowds will remain socially distant at Canberra Stadium. Picture: NRL Imagery

Crowds will remain socially distant at Canberra Stadium. Picture: NRL Imagery

The crowd cap of 1500 people at sporting events will remain in place for at least a fortnight when the situation will be reassessed by ACT chief health officer Dr Kerryn Coleman.

Her next step would leave the club with a short turnaround to sell more tickets for the Rabbitohs clash at Canberra Stadium but the Raiders are keen to welcome more fans into the venue.

"In a fortnight's time, when I have another look at the checkpoint and a review of the evidence, that will be the first time I consider anything beyond community sports moving ahead," Coleman said.

The ACT Brumbies will not play another Super Rugby AU home game until August 1 but club officials are keeping a close eye on the unfolding situation.

The decision could have a major impact on plans for contact sports to resume competitions from next week, after they were originally cleared to begin from July 10. Coleman will reassess that decision on Thursday, two days out from round one for three major codes.

Additional temporary conditions are already in place at Canberra Stadium with all patrons being urged to download the COVIDSafe App before entering the venue, which would help to trace the virus should it spread further.

Fans are likely to be restricted to the eastern side of the stadium, with about 230 corporates and 270 "participants" - including players, team staff and venue officials - bringing the total capacity to about 2000.

The Raiders hosted the St George Illawarra Dragons in front of a small crowd last week, with Furner saying the match day experience went off without a hitch.

It bodes well for the club as they scale back plans and prepare to do it all again in a highly-anticipated showdown against an NRL powerhouse in the Storm.

"It will be pretty much the same as last time, we've become used to it a bit. It's become the new norm," Furner said.

"We've sort of done it before, we've done it at Campbelltown and we've seen it in that last game [in round two on the Gold Coast] before it all closed down.

"We had all the protocols in place, security at the stadium were good, people listened, people were understanding. It's not a massive crowd to deal with, 1500 people, so we dealt with it pretty well.

"People were separated, so you didn't really have to keep reinforcing it. People complied really well.

"We started really strict. It's easier to come back down than go back up. It's not much different to what we've been doing anyway."

NRL ROUND NINE

Saturday: Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm at Canberra Stadium, 7.35pm.

Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Bailey Simonsson, 3. Jarrod Croker (c), 4. Michael Oldfield, 5. Nick Cotric, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. George Williams, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (c), 10. Dunamis Lui, 11. Hudson Young, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. Joe Tapine. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Kai O'Donnell, 16. Ryan Sutton, 17. Jordan Rapana. Reserves: 18. Tom Starling, 19. Matt Frawley, 20. Darby Medlyn, 21. Curtis Scott.

Storm squad: 1. Ryan Papenhuyzen, 2. Marion Seve, 3. Justin Olam, 4. Paul Momirovski, 5. Josh Addo-Carr, 6. Ryley Jacks, 7. Jahrome Hughes, 8. Jesse Bromwich, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Christian Welch, 11. Felise Kaufusi, 12. Kenneath Bromwich, 13. Dale Finucane. Interchange: 14. Brandon Smith, 15. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, 16. Tom Eisenhuth, 17. Nelson Asofa-Solomona. Reserves: 18. Darryn Schonig, 19. Cameron Munster, 20. Brenko Lee, 21. Nicholas Hynes.

This story NRL crowds capped at 1500 at Canberra Stadium first appeared on The Canberra Times.