NSW coach Brad Fittler has thrown his support behind delaying this year’s State of Origin series as late as possible to give fans a chance to attend the games.
The timing of the lucrative interstate series remains unclear as the NRL continue delicate negotiations with broadcasters over this year’s restructured season.
League officials remain determined to resume its competition on May 28, but questions persist over its length and how much broadcast revenue is generated.
The Origin series, traditionally played after round 12, could also be pushed back until after the grand final, which could be played as late as November.
The league’s showpiece event could reportedly attract $90 million in revenue if supporters aren’t locked out of stadiums due to social distancing measures.
Fittler said it would be “hard” to play the series in front of empty stands.
“When you talk about the no fans, it really puts a big question mark on it,” Fittler told Triple M on Saturday.
“I think the fans actually bring the pressure to the game and also allow the excellence as well, players to really stand up under the pressure.
“The last thing I heard was that Origin might be played at the end of the year. That seems like a great idea to me. It gives us every opportunity to have fans there.”
Fittler also doubled down on his criticism of Queensland premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, who this week said Origin shouldn’t be played during the pandemic.
“Just throwing the towel in this early is a crazy way to go. I don’t see it as anything we want to be about. It shows no spirit, no backbone,” he said.
“I think you’ve got to fight this thing to a degree by showing it respect, but also trying to find a way out of it.
“I think since then Annastacia’s turned around because she realised the importance of Origin to Queensland people and NSW people.”
Fittler also reiterated his suggestion that supporters could self-isolate in the lead-up to games in an attempt to get into grounds.
“I just think there are ways and because of the love of the game and the concept, I just feel like you can think outside the square to get fans in the ground,” he said.
“It could make a hell of a story and commitment by not just players, but fans.”
Another potential hurdle for the NRL and the Nine Network, who own exclusive rights to broadcasting Origin, is the T20 World Cup in October and November.
Australia have a pool match against the West Indies on Wednesday, October 28 in Perth, while finals are pencilled in for Wednesday, November 11 at the SCG, and Sunday, November 15 at the MCG.