COVID has destroyed sport around the world, but it's had a silver lining with the Border to host the only trial match for premiers Melbourne Storm.
In an amazing set of circumstances, the star-studded Storm will meet fellow finalists Newcastle Knights at the Albury Sportsground on Saturday, February 27.
The match was originally slated for the Victorian capital, but the Knights deemed the risk too high under the current COVID environment.
The match was only confirmed late Thursday night and while it's too early to confirm the starting line-ups, the fact it's the last hit-out is like a late Christmas present for Border, North East and southern Riverina sports fans.
"We'll bring a really strong squad and take it really seriously because we're 20 days out (as of yesterday) from round one, our first game here (at home) against the Rabbitohs, so this is really important for our football program," new Storm CEO Justin Rodski, in his debut press conference, said.
The Storm will definitely be missing three players from its premiership win over Penrith in former Australian captain Cameron Smith (thought to be retired), winger Suliasi Vunivalu (Queensland Reds - Super Rugby) and hulking forward Tino Faasuamaleaui (Gold Coast).
However, the club still has a stack of high profile players, including flying fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and NSW winger Josh Addo-Carr.
The Knights will also be without three players, including the electric Kayln Ponga (shoulder), but they also boast enormous talent in NSW back-rower Tyson Frizell and halfback Mitchell Pearce.
"It's amazing the area has been able to snare this at such late notice," Albury Thunder Rugby League Club's Mike Eden said.
The Storm was based at the Albury Tigers' home for training last year after Albury City Council didn't allow the club to use Greenfield Park.
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"The only concerns I had (in 2020) was based on that potential outbreak, which, in fact did occur (in Melbourne)," councillor Darren Cameron said on Friday.
"I don't think you can compare the two situations ... and what I would like is for the people who went around town mouthing off and saying they would never come to Albury again, we'd never see major sport events in Albury, I'd like those people to publicly apologise."
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