The idea of a Saturday afternoon grand final for 2017 has been put on hold by Newcastle Rugby League officials after discovering a clash of dates with a rival code.
Newcastle RL were keen to kick-off a recently struck three-year deal with McDonald Jones Stadium by shifting away from the traditional Sunday timeslot, but this position will now be reassessed during the opening rounds.
Upcoming club and board meetings will help decide whether to continue with their original proposal for September 23, which would go head-to-head with the Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union (NHRU) decider at No.2 Sportsground, or fall back a day and keep with previous season scheduling.
“We’ll just have to weigh up the pros and cons, and if it’s the advantage Saturday could be, or it’s a disadvantage having both [league and union grand finals] on the same day,” Newcastle RL chief executive officer Matt Harris said.
“It’s disappointing, but that’s the situation we’re in.”
The confusion came after Wednesday night’s season launch at the stadium, which will now host Newcastle RL grand finals until 2019.
An announcement about moving to a Saturday grand final had been made, but Harris said this was based on believing the weekend of September 23 and 24 was entirely clear of any other local competitions while major NRL and AFL deciders followed on the October long weekend.
On Thursday morning Harris learned the NHRU showdown had been moved, contrary to the draft draw he initially witnessed.
In the off-season Harris met and discussed grand final dates with NHRU general manager Andy Fairfull, who said the change came about more recently.
“The clubs didn’t want to play on Easter, which we originally were, which put it all back a week,” Fairfull said on Thursday.
“In future years we shouldn’t have this issue, we generally try and start the first Saturday in April and probably gain a week there.
“But we won’t be changing our grand final date now, we’re set in stone.”
Newcastle RL have played their past two grand finals at the Knights’ home ground after a long history at No.1 Sportsground.
Meanwhile, in round-one teams for Saturday matches, premiership pair Liam Higgins and Brendan Simpson take over leadership duties for defending champions South Newcastle, English Super League recruits Luke Dorn and Dane Tilse were named fullback and skipper at Maitland respectively, Terence Seu Seu and younger brother Jonah Lisiua will team up in Kurri’s halves and Ethan Cook will captain a star-studded Central squad.
On Sunday, former Knights player Nathan Hinton is on Macquarie’s bench, Matt Hilder hasn’t been listed for Lakes, injured pivot Jade Porter will target next week to return for Western Suburbs and Brendan Hlad has put off retirement to line up at Cessnock once more.