Ricky Stuart fears the Canberra Raiders will be forced out of their home stadium for the entire NRL season in what could be a massive blow to their premiership ambitions.
The Raiders will call Campbelltown Stadium home until at least round nine with the NRL turning its back on Canberra Stadium despite no known active coronavirus cases in the ACT.
Stuart is hoping the Raiders will be able to return to Canberra Stadium this season but concedes his side may be forced to spend an entire campaign on the road to avenge grand final heartbreak.
The ACT is one of only two jurisdictions with no known active cases of COVID-19 but they will be forced to play matches in NSW, Victoria and Queensland with no guarantee of playing at home.
"Obviously hoping, but the planets aren't really aligning at the moment in regards to having home games back in Canberra this season," Stuart said on the Behind the Limelight podcast.
MORE RUGBY LEAGUE
"I just hope after round 10 we can lift the restrictions from a community point of view and where we're at with the protocols from an NRL point.
"Hopefully we may get some games back at [Canberra Stadium], but I'm not confident to be honest."
The Raiders are set to travel via a chartered flight to reduce travel time on game days having been dealt a rough hand in regards to travel loads.
While clubs like Melbourne, Brisbane and North Queensland are able to use their usual home grounds, the Raiders will be made to travel to Sydney for home fixtures in the foreseeable future.
The NRL has published its 20-round fixture but venues have not been allocated beyond round nine, with officials set to reassess the safety of hosting games in more than six stadiums.
The New Zealand Warriors face the toughest road ahead having been forced to move to Gosford to play this year.
"It's very much an ongoing issue at the moment with our games in Campbelltown," Stuart said.
"The NRL have got issues with the biosecurity situation with the travel and whether we can have accommodation before the game. It's something we're discussing with the NRL right at this moment.
"It's very important because we don't want to be on the road every weekend with the extensive travel in front of us.
"Not being able to play our home games at [Canberra Stadium] has created this, unfortunately that was the case. Let's hope it can be corrected very quickly."
Being forced out of their home venue isn't the only bitter pill Raiders officials and fans have been forced to swallow after the club's free-to-air exposure was slashed in the revamped draw.
The Raiders will play just three times on Channel Nine in the revamped draw, down from the eight they were initially promised for the 2020 season.
"I get very disillusioned and disappointed for our commercial team here, and all our sponsors who would love some free-to-air advertisement, for our fans who would like to watch us on free-to-air," Stuart said.
"I feel sorry for them, because we are basically just shoved to the background, not given or shown any respect from the broadcaster in regards to wanting to put more of our games on free-to-air television.
"We deserve the right, I believe with the way we play the game, we deserve the right to be on free-to-air more often."
Stuart admits it feels like the season is starting all over again despite the Raiders entering their round three clash against the Melbourne Storm with a 2-0 record.
"Tough road trip first up, we've got Melbourne in Melbourne. The players are all very excited. They returned after their stint in lockdown in very good shape," Stuart said.
"We're just very fortunate the game is going to be played again."