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Origin's mid-year return locked in: V'landys

A bonanza of country rugby league and a return to mid-year Origin will be key elements of the 2021 Telstra Premiership draw while the Warriors are set to play out of Auckland, according to ARL chairman Peter V'landys.

Alongside NSW deputy premier John Barilaro, the Commission chairman also expressed his confidence in the state government honouring an $800m commitment to upgrade four suburban venues.

With the full draw to be released on Thursday, V'landys on Wednesday said the post-season Origin format had not worked out, while confirming six NSW country towns would host full NRL fixtures next year.

The Sharks will take a game to Coffs Harbour, Manly to Mudgee, Penrith to Bathurst, Souths to Dubbo, the Raiders to Wagga and Wests Tigers to Tamworth.

The rounds and opposition clubs for those fixtures will be revealed in the full draw release on Thursday. Those six games will increase to nine country games in 2022.

Venues and dates are also yet to be confirmed for the 2021 State of Origin series, but a return to mid-season is locked in.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys at Rugby League Central.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys at Rugby League Central. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"We've trialled it at the end of the season, it hasn't been as successful as we would have thought but it served the purposes for this year," V'landys said.

A mid-season Origin this year would have been played to no crowds and with a reduced NRL draw, it would have unfairly penalised teams with high Origin representation, he said.

"Our ratings weren't as good as they normally are in its normal time period," he added.

"A proper test would have been to run it in October but that also affects our international calendar and we don't want to affect that so after consultation with the broadcasters it was best to put it back to its original position."

V'landys also confirmed the Warriors home games have been scheduled in Auckland in anticipation of a trans-Tasman bubble being in operation by the start of next season, although contingency plans are in place.

"We're very confident international borders will be open by that stage," he said.

"The [COVID-19] vaccine is imminent, or we hope it is, and we've got zero community infection. Every decision we've taken at the NRL we've done on the scientific data and medical advice.

"[Our biosecurity expert] tells us we will be playing games in New Zealand in the first round, we have to take that advice. It's been zero infections for 30 days in NSW and 28 days in Victoria. If it stays like that we don't have a problem.

"If it doesn't happen, we have contingencies in place for all scenarios."

On the stadium funding, V'Landys was hoping for progress at a meeting at 4pm on Wednesday between the NRL and the state government.

"There's a meeting this afternoon with Gladys [Berejiklian] and the treasurer and we're hoping to move forward significantly with the agreement," he said.

"Suburban stadiums is the major part of our strategy, it promotes tribalism, it allows people to stay in the local community and it's not just for rugby league it's for all the community, it's for other sports like netball and hockey that aspire to play or compete on a suburban ground.

Tackle of the 2020 State of Origin series

"I'm very confident the NSW government is going to back our plan, the premier has already indicated that. It's a matter of timing more than anything else, we want it done yesterday, she wants to do it in a couple of years.

"The $800m has not been spent on ANZ Stadium, that was supposed to start at the beginning of the year. We asked for that money to be transferred to these suburban stadiums."

V'landys confirmed the NRL would consider moving the grand final to Brisbane if the deal fell through but stressed that was purely hypothetical at this stage.

Try of the 2020 State of Origin series

"We have to do what's best for the NRL and our game and if that means taking a grand final to Brisbane we will do it," he said.

"Brisbane is a massive market for us, it's our second biggest heartland of rugby league after NSW so it's only fair we do consider taking it to Brisbane.

"We're confident the government and premier will honour their agreement. We had an agreement for an $800m upgrade of ANZ Stadium – all we've done it transfer that to four suburban stadiums to allow the community to have their own local asset for a multitude of purposes."