Rugby league’s showpiece State of Origin series will return to Australia’s biggest stadium next year, with the MCG to host games in 2015 and 2018.
It is not the first time the NRL has ventured down to Melbourne for Origin, with several games over the past few years.
Origin was last played at the 100,000-capacity MCG in 1997, with the most recent match in Melbourne taking place at a sold-out Etihad Stadium in 2012.
It is no doubt part of a broader plan to get more big rugby league games played in the city most consider to be Australia’s sporting capital, with NRL CEO Dave Smith also announcing that Australia would play England at AAMI Park on November 2 this year.
With Origin getting bigger each year, the question of where the games are played becomes more relevant and important.
Playing games in Melbourne means no team has a true ‘home town’ advantage, but many league fans are of the view that the games should be played in the two states that contest Origin.
Dave Smith disagrees, and thinks that taking the game to Melbourne indicates a big win for the MCG.
“I think anyone who saw last week’s Origin game in Brisbane will realise that Melbourne has secured the best sporting event in Australia,” he said.
“There is nothing which can match the passion, desperation, skill and excitement of Origin at its best.”
Victorian Premier Dr Dennis Napthine added that he thinks this is a win for all sports fans in Melbourne.
“This is terrific news for sports fans in Melbourne, Victoria and right around Australia, and is expected to deliver a great result for the Victorian tourism industry and our economy.
“State of Origin’s most recent game in Melbourne, played at Etihad Stadium in 2012, attracted a sell-out crowd including more than 20,000 visitors from outside Victoria, and delivered wonderful economic benefit to the State,” Dr Napthine said.
The television figures from last week’s game would indicate there is enough interest in the game in the state, with over half a million Victorians tuning in to watch Queensland and New South Wales duke it out in an Origin classic.
Dave Smith believes taking the game to the biggest stadium in Australia only represents a benefit to the code.
“I can only imagine the atmosphere of an Origin game before a huge crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground,” he said. “The players love nothing more than being part of such an important match on such a big stage.”
He said the NRL was determined see growth of the code in Melbourne.
“We want to have an impact, not just at the elite level but at the grassroots and junior levels as well,” he said. “That’s why part of the funding from this partnership will go towards community development activities for rugby league in Victoria.”
What do you think Roarers? Is this the right call?