The ACT Brumbies and Canberra Raiders have started talks about the prospect of both teams playing at Canberra Stadium on the same day to solve a major scheduling conflict.
The Super Rugby draw was published on Monday, with the Brumbies to start their season on the road before returning to the capital in round three.
Their clash against the Waikato Chiefs in Canberra on March 26 has been left without a time or a venue because the Raiders are booked to play at home against the Gold Coast Titans on the same day.
The Canberra Times can reveal the Brumbies and Raiders have launched talks to discuss viable possibilities after Super Rugby officials failed to secure the stadium booking in time.
One option being considered is standalone events at Canberra Stadium on the same day, with the Brumbies-Chiefs battle to start at around midday and the Raiders-Titans to follow at 7.30pm.
The venue would be cleared out between games and lines repainted to suit the NRL for what would be a same-day double-header.
The complication, however, is that the timing would not work if the Raiders were also hosting an under-20s or NSW Cup game as a curtain-raiser.
If one of those games were scheduled for Canberra, the Brumbies would have to play on a Friday afternoon at around 5.30pm or host the Chiefs for a game on Sunday.
The ACT government is aware of the conflict, but it's understood the Brumbies and Raiders have already started their own discussions in the hope of finding a solution to suit both parties.
The uncertainty around the AFL draw has added further complications, with the GWS Giants to play up to four games in Canberra next year.
Part of the Giants' deal with the government is that it has "the first right over all other events at Manuka Oval" between February 1 and August 31 every year of the contract.
The Giants could veto the Brumbies' request to play at Manuka, but that is unlikely given they agreed to allow the Brumbies to play at the venue last year before the COVID-19 pandemic forced organisers to cancel the game.
It's understood the Brumbies' number one preference would be to play standalone fixtures at Canberra Stadium on the same day. The government and stadium officials are supportive of that approach and believe it is logistically possible to make the necessary adjustments to the ground, stands and corporate boxes.
They won't be able to lock in that deal, though, until the NRL announces the second-tier draw for the under-20s and NSW Cup in early December.
A Friday afternoon clash would be the second option, but the 5.30pm kick-off in Bruce on a work day would make it difficult to generate a crowd.
Sunday afternoon is logistically the easiest, but both the Brumbies and Chiefs' high-performance units want to avoid having a five-day turnaround into their games the following week.
"I think there's a lot of things we can build community interest around so I'm not sure where that'll end up," said Brumbies forwards coach Laurie Fisher. "Other people will decide that. We'd be happy to play anywhere."
The potential of inclement weather would add another curveball to the scenario of the Brumbies and Raiders playing at home on the same day.
It takes around four hours for field markings to be washed off and then repainted to suit the different codes.
Rain would delay that and could cause problems before the start of the Raiders game, which will be the Raiders' second home game of the season.
The Brumbies and Raiders were preparing to play a double-header at Eden Park in Auckland last year, but the plans were ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In that scenario, the Raiders and Warriors would have played before the Brumbies and Blues because it is easier to remark lines for a rugby union game than it is for rugby league.
Brumbies and Raiders officials had hoped the Raiders would have been given a day-time fixture to play the Titans next year, which would have allowed the Brumbies and Chiefs to play in the evening. But the NRL settled on the 7.30pm timeslot and booked the stadium before Super Rugby officials were able to finalise their draw.
The Brumbies had been asking for the draw to be fast-tracked to avoid clashes, but the delay has caused a November headache for the Canberra franchise.
Both Canberra teams have flirted with the idea of a double-header in the past, but no deal has been able to be finalised.
FULL BRUMBIES DRAW
February 18: Moana Pasifika v Brumbies at Auckland, 5.05pm.
February 27: Rebels v Brumbies at Melbourne, 4pm.
March 5: Brumbies v Waratahs at Canberra, 7.45pm.
March 12: Reds v Brumbies at Brisbane, 7.45pm.
March 19: Brumbies v Hurricanes at Canberra, 2.35pm.
Round 6 date TBC: Brumbies v Chiefs at Canberra, TBC
April 1: Force v Brumbies at Perth, 9pm.
April 15: Fijian Drua v Brumbies at TBC, 7.45pm.
April 22: Highlanders v Brumbies at Dunedin, 5.05pm.
April 29: Brumbies v Reds at Canberra, 7.45pm.
May 8: Brumbies v Force at Canberra, 2pm.
May 14: Chiefs v Brumbies at Hamilton, 2.35pm.
May 21: Brumbies v Crusaders at Canberra, 7.45pm.
May 27: Brumbies v Blues at Canberra Stadium, 7.45pm.
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