Raiders move closer to early home ground return

Canberra are a step closer to an early NRL home ground return after receiving ACT Government approval to play their round-eight match at Canberra Stadium on July 3.

The Raiders are now hoping to get the green light from the NRL so they can start hosting matches in the nation’s capital two weeks earlier than previously scheduled.

Club officials will meet on Friday with the ACT Government to finalise protocols for the round-eight game against St George Illawarra and are hopeful fans will be allowed to attend.

The ACT Government is yet to finalise how many supporters can go to games despite the NSW Government’s approval of a 25 per cent capacity for medium-sized stadiums from round 10.

The Queensland Government announced this week that the state’s stadiums could host up to 2,000 fans from Saturday.

It is another positive sign that all NRL teams could be back at their home grounds earlier than expected.

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After resuming from the coronavirus shutdown on May 28, the league scheduled games at limited venues until round nine, including three grounds in NSW, two in Queensland and one in Victoria.

The Raiders were assigned Campbelltown Stadium as their “home” ground — a three-hour drive away.

NRL executives were this week believed to be exploring the possibility of all 16 clubs moving back to their own grounds in a fortnight.

The NRL will need approval from the game’s broadcasters before allowing teams back to their own venues.

“Because of the easing of the health restrictions and because the infections rate is so low, we are really looking at that [getting teams back to their grounds] at the moment,” NRL interim CEO Andrew Abdo said on Wednesday.

“We’re working with state governments, we’re working with the stadiums, we’re working with the clubs and there is a possibility that we might be able to change the locations of those games … in order for our fans to be able to attend those games live.”

External view of Canberra Stadium

External view of Canberra Stadium

The Raiders have been playing home games in Campbelltown — but the players are keen to get back to base very soon.(AAP: Lukas Coch)

Raiders winger Jordan Rapana said a home ground return could not come soon enough for his team.

“Not that I am looking for excuses but it is not very convenient travelling three hours for a home game — it is the same distance to all our away games.

“The sooner we get games back here the better for us — we look forward to it.”

Raiders back-rower Joe Tapine said it had been hard for players to prepare for home games at Campbelltown Stadium.

“There’s a bit of adjustment. It’s a learning process,” he said.

“I am looking forward to getting back [to Canberra] and hopefully the crowds start rolling in.”

It is believed Super Rugby outfit the Brumbies are seeking ACT government approval to play at Canberra Stadium on July 4, the day after the Raiders-Dragons clash.

Canberra “host” Manly in their round-six clash at Campbelltown Stadium on Sunday.

AAP/ABC