NRL’s road warriors are homeward bound
Canberra are poised to become the first of the NRL's travelling band of clubs to return home.
The Raiders have submitted an application to the ACT Government to move their round-eight game against St George Illawarra on July 3 back to GIO Stadium instead of playing it at Campbelltown Stadium.
"We just want to return home," Raiders CEO Don Furner said.
Canberra's possible return to GIO Stadium is expected to prompt all other clubs playing "home" matches at other venues to seek the same.
The NRL initially announced that all clubs should be back at their home grounds by round 10 but Canberra want to make the switch two weeks earlier.
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All matches are currently being played at six venues - AAMI Park, Campbelltown Stadium, Central Coast Stadium, Suncorp Stadium, North Queensland Stadium and Bankwest Stadium.
While the NSW Government has approved a 25 per cent stadium capacity from round 10, the ACT Government is yet to finalise how many fans would be permitted to attend Canberra's match against St George Illawarra.
The ACT Brumbies are also expecting approval from the Government to play a Super Rugby match at GIO Stadium on July 4, a day after the Raiders-Dragons game.
Raiders players would be happy to play in an empty stadium at home and there remains a slight chance only corporate supporters would be allowed in on July 3.
The Raiders played their round-four home game at Campbelltown Stadium, an away match at the same venue last weekend against Wests Tigers and return there on Sunday to take on Manly.
Wests Tigers, Parramatta, Brisbane, North Queensland and Melbourne have continued playing at their home grounds since the COVID-19 return.
"We are pushing through the NRL and ACT Government to have games here at GIO Stadium two weeks earlier than expected," Furner said.
"We were slated to play away until round 10 at Campbelltown but we are hoping this weekend's home game against Manly will be our final home game at Campbelltown.
"We are under a different jurisdiction and have to obtain approval from the ACT Government, which hopefully we will get."
The NRL must secure approval from the game's broadcasters before all clubs return to their home grounds.
Gold Coast, New Zealand and Manly are also expected to seek a return home in round eight, while it is unclear whether the Bulldogs-Souths game will be shifted from Bankwest Stadium to ANZ Stadium.
Most clubs have budgeted to lose $2.5 million to $3 million in home-ground gate takings during the coronavirus-enforced changes.
The NRL has assisted clubs by paying for ground hire and leaving the annual club grant stable while reducing the salary cap.
Memberships have remained solid and most clubs have offered to allow them to roll into next year.
Many corporate sponsors have told clubs to keep this year's money but offer the same private suites - at no additional cost - for next season.
That means clubs will sustain a financial hit next year.
NRL clubs may be told this week that players and football club staff can exit their COVID-19 bubble.
Originally published as NRL's road warriors are homeward bound