Queensland's historic NRL grand final will be played in front of a capped crowd of 39,000 due to tightening COVID-19 restrictions.
The NRL has confirmed 25% of fans who purchased tickets to Sunday's Rabbitohs-Panthers sold-out decider will be automatically refunded on a "first in" basis from when tickets were purchased.
On Sunday, Queensland's chief health officer Jeanette Young said there had been no news cases in the previous 24 hours and the grand final would go ahead.
Young said it was "astounding that we haven’t seen community seeding".
There will be pop-up vaccination clinics around Suncorp Stadium for Sunday's grand final.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced the return to stage-two COVID-19 restrictions across areas of South-East Queensland, including Brisbane and the Gold Coast, as well as Townsville on Thursday morning.
On Friday, she provided an update to say at this stage, there would be no further restrictions as there had only been three new cases reported overnight.
Both grand final teams have been placed back under level-four biosecurity protocols as of 6pm on Wednesday.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo on Thursday acknowledged the disappointment that around 13,000 fans now face as he explained the refund process for Suncorp Stadium's first NRL grand final.
"We had two allocations of grand final tickets. The first was to the general public and the second was aimed at fans of both grand final teams,’’ Abdo said.
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"The fairest way to determine who can attend the game is by prioritising the first 75% to purchase tickets in each allocation. Any fan who no longer wants to attend will also be able to access a refund.
"I want to acknowledge fans who will now miss out on attending the grand final.
"I know you had been counting down the days to a once in a lifetime experience and this will be difficult news to take, but this decision is out of our hands."
This will be difficult news to take, but this decision is out of our hands.Andrew Abdo
Fans attending the decider will also be required to wear masks per government restrictions.
Six new locally acquired cases have sparked the increased measures that will come into effect for two weeks from 4pm on Thursday, with Townsville also included after a positive case was detected in the city.
If the situation in Brisbane worsened and the match needed to be switched to Townsville's Queensland Country Bank Stadium, it would also be limited to 75% capacity at this stage.
"Let me make it very clear that the health of Queenslanders comes first and as soon as Dr Young [Queensland's Chief Health Officer] says we need to move into a lockdown we will," the Premier said.
"It's going to be disappointing for people but we have to take the health advice.
"The health advice is to move to stage 2 [restrictions]. Stage 2 says 75% capacity, that's what will be. We want to make sure this is not seeding in the community.
"We've got to put these restrictions in place to avoid a lockdown at this stage. We can get through this if we all do the right thing."
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The respective grand final camps of South Sydney at Surfers Paradise and Penrith on the Sunshine Coast have returned to the same tight Apollo restrictions that were in place for much of 2020.
Players, staff and family members in each team's bubble must now remain in their club set-ups unless attending training or performing an essential household task like shopping, with visitors banned.
"The club was informed yesterday afternoon of the change in protocols," Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly told NRL.com.
"We are supportive of anything the NRL or Queensland Government require us to do to ensure that Sunday’s game can take place safely."
Several sporting events have been left on tenterhooks by Queensland's latest outbreak, with the women's cricket Test between Australia and India due to start on Thursday afternoon on the Gold Coast.
Tasmania's Sheffield Shield cricket team returned home after their clash with Queensland was postponed on Tuesday, while the Gold Coast's Cbus Super Stadium is also due to host a Wallabies-Argentina, All Blacks-South Africa double-header on Saturday.
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Given the prevailing uncertainty, Abdo acknowledged the Queensland government's role in keeping the NRL competition going this season.
"We’ve got a great partnership with the Queensland Government and I’d like to acknowledge the Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk and Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young for the way they have managed the pandemic and worked with us to ensure the continuity of the competition whilst keeping the community safe," he said.
"Suncorp Stadium is one of the best venues in the world and with 39,000 passionate fans at the stadium, I’ve got no doubt there will be a great atmosphere on Sunday night."
Ticketek will automatically refund tickets to the final 25% of fans who purchased seats in each grand final selling allocation.
All fans would also have the opportunity to access a refund if they no longer wish to attend and can do so by contacting Ticketek. Fans impacted by the reduction in capacity will be advised on Thursday.
- The NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final will be played in front of a capped crowd of 39,000 at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday night after Queensland Public Health Orders reduced capacity to 75%
- The NRL & Ticketek will automatically refund tickets to the final 25% of fans who purchased seats in each Grand Final selling allocation and will be contacted as soon as possible
- The NRL understand that these changes to the schedule will impact many but hope the community will understand that the decision is out of our hands
- All patrons who do attend will also be required to wear a mask at all times, including when seated
- For anyone wishing to request a refund, please submit a request here