Brumbies-Reds to split points if smoke wreaks havoc on Super Rugby opener

Super Rugby
by Beth Newman and Emma Greenwood

Friday night's Brumbies-Reds match could be marked down as a scoreless draw if the Canberra clash is affected by smoke.

The Brumbies were forced to relocate to Newcastle for 10 days after hazardous smoke enveloped Canberra earlier this month and the problem has returned this week.

Canberra was again blanketed in smoke early this week after a bushfire spread on the outskirts of the Australian capital and with just two days until the Super Rugby opener, there is serious concern about the match.

SANZAAR on Wednesday unveiled a new air quality policy, in the wake of months of smoke-affected days in NSW, the ACT and Victoria.

The new policy will take into account particulate matter (PM) levels, the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the area where the match is being played and the impacts of conditions in the environment and any symptoms athletes suffer. 

A call on the match will be decided by an Air Quality Assessment Panel made up of medicos, match officials, match day operational staff and Super Rugby competition staff.

With the difficulty of predicting changes in the air, it is understood that any call on the game would be left until match day, leaving no time for the game to be moved to Brisbane by Friday night.

It's understood preliminary discussions were held in early January - when the Brumbies were first forced out of Canberra due to air quality concerns - about moving the match to Brisbane but scheduled works at Suncorp Stadium made a shift to that Reds' regular venue impossible.

Should the match be abandoned before kick-off or any time in the first half, the teams would split the competition points and the match would be declared a draw.

If the decision is made in the second half, whatever the game situation is then would be the result of the match.

Only two Super Rugby matches have been called off in previous years - last year's Crusaders-Highlanders game was cancelled in the wake of the Christchurch massacre and in 2011, another Crusaders game was abandoned after an earthquake.

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos said in the announcement of the new policy that welfare was the number one concern when devising the strategy.

"It has been an extraordinary summer in Australia to date and we deeply sympathise with all those individuals and communities who have been impacted by the bush fires," he said.

"Naturally, the continued welfare of our players and indeed spectators is a priority for us should such incidents continue to affect the Australian landscape. It is therefore prudent of us to put in place these guidelines with our stakeholders.”

The Brumbies and Reds both named their teams on Wednesday morning with no indication of any changes to their plans for Friday night.

The Reds will travel to Canberra as planned on Thursday, with a call on the game likely to be made late on match day unless the fire situation deteriorates rapidly.

Brumbies coach Dan McKellar said welfare would be at the heart of any decisoin around the conditoins, whether it be the smoke for the sweltering temperatures predicted for Friday night.

"That's for SANZAAR and people above me to worry about. I'll just worry about the football - I'm sure there'll be a drink break, 20 minutes, player welfare's always at the forefront of people's minds so all I can focus on is making sure the Brumbies perform well," he said.

The Brumbies host the Reds at GIO Stadium on Friday January 31, kicking off at 7:15pm AEDT, LIVE on FOX SPORTS, Kayo and via RADIO. Buy tickets here.