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State of Origin: Melbourne one day, Perth and London the next?

Brent Tate warms up at Wembley during the World Cup last year.

Brent Tate warms up at Wembley during the World Cup last year. Photo: Getty Images

NRL officials plan to use State of Origin to grow the game in new markets around Australia and overseas, with Perth and even London possible venues after the new deal to play matches at the MCG in 2015 and 2018 expires.

After announcing after the last match in Melbourne in 2012 that an Origin would be played at a neutral venue every third season, the NRL confirmed on Monday that games would return to the Victorian capital next season and in 2018, but it now believes the matches have outgrown Etihad Stadium and its capacity of 53,000.

NRL director of commercial and marketing Paul Kind said he was confident of attracting crowds of more than 70,000 at the MCG and believed the game was now as strong as it had been when a crowd of 87,161 set what is still the State of Origin attendance record at the venue in 1994.

"I was involved with the game in 1994 ... and the game had momentum, it was being talked about, it presented itself well, and I look at it now and I think we are back in a situation where all of those things are lining up for us again," Kind said.

"Origin is just growing every year at the moment, it just seems to be building on its own momentum and to take it to another level is challenging. We have set ourselves a big goal and if we deliver a near-capacity MCG next year in game two that just takes Origin to another plain, which is just fantastic."

Under the NRL's Origin strategy, NSW gets two home games one year, Queensland has two the following year and they each host one match the third year with the other game to be played at a neutral venue.

An Origin has been played in Melbourne every third year since 2006 but previously either NSW or Queensland had to forego a home match to play there, whereas the Blues will now host two games at ANZ Stadium in 2016.

Given the NRL rejected a $12 million offer from the Victorian government for six Origins in 2012, it is believed the new deal is worth more than $2 million per match.

However, money isn't the only incentive and Kind said the NRL would consider taking Origin anywhere it believed would help grow the game, with Perth a strong possibility in 2021 if the city gets its own team before then.

"In the future that neutral match is designed to be played in growth areas and the new 60,000 Perth stadium comes on line in 2018 and you have obviously got Eden Park [in Auckland]," Kind said.

"We have agreed on the next two in Victoria but the match is definitely designed to be used as a growth opportunity in the same way that other major sports have premium events that they can play around the country and overseas."

Fairfax Media reported last December that interest had been expressed to senior NRL officials about staging a premiership match or Origin in London during a series of meetings held with the likes of Premier League boss Richard Scudamore, Rugby Football Union chief executive Ian Ritchie, UK Minister for Sport Helen Grant and London's Commissioner for Sport Kate Hoey while in England for the World Cup.

Kind said there had been no discussion about playing Origin at Wembley in 2015 or 2018 but would not rule it out beyond then.

"I think the opportunity will be there to grow it in new locations in the future," he said. "It really depends on what the premiership looks like beyond the next rights deal and I think now we will be set up to have a discussion about what the premiership looks like and how Origin works within the premiership across the 26 weeks or fewer in the future."

23 comments so far

  • As long as its a QLD home game, go for your life NRL.

    Commenter
    The Hand
    Location
    NSW South Coast
    Date and time
    June 02, 2014, 8:35PM
    • Half of the appeal of Origin is the atmosphere. Ive been to 2 Melbourne origins, and the atmosphere was lame. Wouldnt bother again. Its Sydney or Brisbane, or it just aint Origin. And now the marketing fools are about to kill it. Surprise surprise. another thing to consider is, if this is indeed the future, theyd better not let NSW win more than 2 series in a row. As weve seen before, whenever that happens Queensland dont want to play anymore, which could spell trouble for the marketing department.

      Commenter
      CL
      Date and time
      June 02, 2014, 9:52PM
      • ' ... and the game had momentum, it was being talked about, it presented itself well,'

        I seem to recall at one of the Melbourne games the crowd chanted 'boring'; although, it was a dour affair. Then again, with the lolly scramble that the AFL resembles, SOO could be good entertainment.

        I'm with most punters here, leave it as it is. I like it being in Sydney and Brisbane; passionate crowds who really care. Spectators at neutral venues are going for the novelty value. You'll turn your sport into an 'event' - the worst thing that can happen to it.

        p.s. the NRL does reealise that London is on the other side of the planet and that flying there will give most people jet lag. Tell em they're dreamin.

        Commenter
        wear the fox hat
        Date and time
        June 03, 2014, 9:16AM
      • CL, I think that you must have your states mixed up a bit. Qld has never lost passion for origin whether on a winning streak or not.This idea you have must have been something once printed in the Sydney media because it has never been talked about here. NSW however does have difficulty selling origin tickets.

        Commenter
        DP
        Location
        GC
        Date and time
        June 03, 2014, 11:45AM
    • Why only have Origin at a neutral venue every third year.? I say have one game in Sydney and Brisbane every year (thus virtually guaranteeing both will be sold out), and use the third game as an annual bonus marketing opportunity.

      As a Rugby League tragic, I have something of a love/hate relationship with Origin. One neutral game a year, in NZ, Perth, Wembly, Old Trafford, anywhere that represents a genuine growth opportunity would be one way to maximise the good it does.

      Commenter
      Joe the expat
      Location
      The Hague.
      Date and time
      June 02, 2014, 10:25PM
      • Playing a State of Origin on some obscure high school football ground somewhere in California all those years ago was such a success in capturing the hearts of the American sporting public - why not at Wembley? Is it so wrong to dream? Actually I can't imagine that much serious discussion went on with the head of the English Premier League, or even English Rugby Union for that matter. Let's just tackle Perth for the time being - that's challenge enough.

        Commenter
        Rangga
        Location
        Annandale NSW
        Date and time
        June 02, 2014, 11:18PM
        • You'd think it would be better up at Old Trafford than in London and it'd have to be a Saturday or Sunday 1pm kick-off too to ensure the ratings. Go for it!

          Commenter
          harro
          Date and time
          June 03, 2014, 12:48AM
          • Delusional idiots... Perth likes it's rugby because of the South African expats there, the RL failed there before and will fail again... it's an AFL town. As for London, the London Broncos venture was a poor joke, the game would be watched by a few thousand Australians, two poms and a dog...

            Commenter
            Duke
            Date and time
            June 03, 2014, 1:03AM
            • Have you seen the Warriors games when they play over in Perth? Should almost be considered a home game with the amount of kiwis working over there now.

              Commenter
              Shinobi
              Date and time
              June 03, 2014, 12:38PM
            • Over half a million who attended the Real Rugby (League) World Cup in England wouuld disagree but a couple of dogs may agree with you, oh and watch the Warriors v Rabbitohs this weekend for a packed stadium AGAIN!.

              Are you there?????

              Commenter
              Paps
              Date and time
              June 03, 2014, 12:51PM

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