The Melbourne Storm’s State of Origin stars have been asked to turn around and fly back to Queensland on Thursday night with the Victorian government announcing a snap five-day lockdown.
- The Storm are relocating to Queensland for the second time this season
- They were set to host the Knights in Melbourne on Saturday night
- All 16 NRL clubs will now be based in south-east Queensland
Amid new COVID-19 cases in Melbourne, the Storm are to relocate to Queensland before midnight on Thursday, setting up camp in the state for the second time this season after already spending 47 days on the Sunshine Coast.
The Storm have been home in Melbourne for just two weeks but the NRL has been forced to act quickly to get the club into Queensland and into a hub in time for Saturday night’s clash with Newcastle.
The match was scheduled to be played at AAMI Park as their first home fixture since round eight, but has been shifted to Robina on Saturday night.
It will be the second match of a double header, with Canberra facing Cronulla earlier in the evening after their fixture was push backed.
Storm players, coaches and staff will fly directly to Brisbane.
“We are really disappointed we won’t be able to play in front of our members and fans again this weekend as we hoped to,” Storm chief executive Justin Rodski said in a statement.
“I know how much everyone connected with Storm — our players and staff through to our hugely loyal members and fans — was looking forward to it.
“There has been so much excitement and planning put into returning to AAMI Park but unfortunately the decision, in the end, was out of our hands.
“We will continue to work with the NRL and governments over the coming days to assess the situation in Victoria and plan our return as soon as possible.”
It has come as a blow for the reigning premiers, who also spent four months of last season in camp on the Sunshine Coast after originally hoping to be there for only a few short weeks.
State of Origin stars Christian Welch, Cameron Munster, Felise Kaufusi, Josh Addo-Carr and Nicho Hynes were on a charter flight back to Melbourne after Queensland’s 20-18 win in Robina on Wednesday night when the decision was made.
They landed in Melbourne on Thursday afternoon and were to briefly return to their homes before heading back to Queensland with the remainder of the Storm squad.
It is understood that Storm players and staff will not need to be locked down for 14 days like clubs arriving from NSW.
Among other changes to round 18, North Queensland will play the Sydney Roosters in Townsville at 3:00pm (AEST), as opposed to the early evening.