Inside the military-style operation to get Suncorp Stadium ready


“It’s definitely gone to another level,” Suncorp Stadium general manager Alan Graham said. “Things have changed a lot since that last game [round two], but it did give us a good platform to build on.

“A lot of things were put in place for that game, but certainly we’ve been able to work in additional measures with the NRL, given they have very stringent measures to get the competition up and running and we have to meet those requirements.”

There will be no novelty factor about the lack of crowds this time, with media restricted to specific areas and unable to roam the empty stands for quirky camera shots. And, most worrying of all, the few reporters at the game will have to bring their own sandwiches instead of the traditional winter fare of press box pies.

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett and his coaching staff in the empty stands for their match against the Broncos in round two.Credit:Getty

Already, Suncorp Stadium staff and contractors are being temperature tested before they can enter the ground and that will be done on Thursday for anyone who needs to be inside its walls. Staff have not been COVID tested but have been on alert for symptoms, while the NRL has not yet made the COVIDsafe app compulsory.

“They are very specific about social distancing, very specific about the health history of people, not coming into a space where they may have been previously exposed or showing systems,” Graham said. “Everyone coming into the venue will be temperature tested and we have already started that process for our staff and contractors.”

The cleaning process has been intense. The ground is essentially wiped clean every four hours, while seats that aren’t even being used are pressure cleaned and disinfected. Door handles and “touch points” are wiped obsessively.

The players and team staff will exit their buses at selected points, be temperature tested and then taken via arranged routes to dressing rooms that have been cleaned so thoroughly they could host major surgeries. They will have been sanitised, locked and only allowed to be opened by the teams once they arrive at the ground to prepare.

The Eels and Broncos will relaunch the NRL season on Thursday night at an empty Suncorp Stadium.

The Eels and Broncos will relaunch the NRL season on Thursday night at an empty Suncorp Stadium.Credit:Getty Images

“That’s all been carefully planned in conjunction with the NRL,” Graham said. “We have planned the entry points and drop-off points and testing points, and the path to and from where they need to go … we will have clean zones, which are totally dedicated to the use of the players and officials. Nobody else will be allowed into those spaces.

“I guess on a smaller scale it is [like a military operation]. It’s just modifying the procedures. There will be a list of accredited people and they will be the only ones allowed into the building. I would expect we would have somewhere around 200 to 250 people, that includes players, officials, broadcasters, essential staff.

“We have access to the highest levels of cleaning specification and sanitation. That’s been fed into our routine, so we already have a really strict procedure. All the areas that will be used will get a deep clean. Those areas will then be secured and nobody will be able to go into those until they are opened up by the teams on the day.”

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Graham said he and his staff were acutely aware of their role in the delicate assembly line that has been put in place and weren’t planning on dropping the ball, with just one rogue infection putting the entire season in jeopardy.

“We all want one thing, which is for the NRL and all the others codes to start back,” he said. “Everyone has worked so hard to get things to this point so we have to make sure we are up to standard and make sure our procedures are spot on, because nobody wants to let the team down. Everything has to work well at our end.”

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