NRL bubble eases, crowds return

NRL players are able to go to cafes and restaurants again with bubble restrictions to be eased following the lifting of Queensland's lockdown.

Club bosses were set to be told on Sunday night of the game's latest restrictions, as the NRL tries to balance player welfare and safety.

It's understood players and staff within the club hubs will go back to the settings they briefly enjoyed when they exited quarantine in the state late last month.

Under the level-three hybrid rules, players and staff could go to cafes and restaurants with members of their bubbles but not pubs or clubs.

Bubble members will be hoping the freedoms last longer than last time around after they had to be scrapped when southeast Queensland was plunged into lockdown last Saturday.

The lifting of the lockdown will also likely save regular COVID-19 tests for players, while all members of the hubs will be able to attend games again.

Families will also finally enjoy freedoms, after being whisked out of two weeks of quarantine into a hard lockdown inside team hubs.

"We were hopeful (lockdown would lift). It has been difficult for the players," Canterbury coach Trent Barrett said.

"They're all in the same boat, all the clubs, and they've done a good job but I will say it is hard.

"I understand there would still be some restrictions on what we can and can't do, but that's fine.

"The players are doing their bit."

The lifting of the week-long lockdown came as a massive relief to the NRL, with crowds of 50 per cent able to return to Queensland grounds from next weekend.

With the whole competition's move to the southeast of the state costing more than $10 million per month, the lack of crowds was hitting the NRL's finances hard.

Saturday's double-header at Suncorp Stadium for instance was likely to have drawn a massive crowd, with Melbourne, Manly, Penrith and Sydney Roosters all featuring.

But around 20,000 will be allowed into Suncorp next weekend and 13,000 into Cbus Super Stadium on the Gold Coast.

Next week's fixture includes the Storm playing on Thursday night, Brisbane hosting the Roosters and a crucial game between Manly and Parramatta that should also attract fans.

The NRL also still has an eye on taking games to regional venues, but currently can't do so until at least round 23.

An exemption will therefore be required to play North Queensland's home match against Wests Tigers in Townsville on Saturday night, but the NRL is confident it will obtain that.

It comes as the NRL continues to weigh up where to hold this year's grand final, with Brisbane still the front-runner but New Zealand suddenly entering the fray as an outside chance.

The appeal of playing in New Zealand would increase assuming a full crowd is allowed, however, all players and officials would need an exemption to not serve two weeks in quarantine with the border shut.