An outdated Canberra Stadium and wads of Queensland government cabbage have cost the capital the State of Origin series opener.
As expected, NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo announced Origin I would be moved from the MCG to Townsville on Monday.
Out of the four reasons he gave for the Far North Queensland town in the middle of nowhere getting the nod, only two counted Canberra out of the running.
The first was Townsville's $293 million stadium that was largely paid for as part of a federal government election promise to what was Australia's most marginal seat.
In contrast, the ACT government's still waiting for Scott Morrison's help to upgrade the 44-year-old Canberra Stadium.
The second was a Queensland government that got out the cheque book.
As revealed by The Canberra Times, talks with the ACT government didn't progress as far as asking for their best offer.
Abdo also mentioned the pandemic - but Canberra has barely had a COVID-19 case over the past year - as well as playing an Origin game somewhere new - there's never been one in the ACT either.
"It's a brand-new stadium, which is incredibly exciting. We always love playing in front of brand-new stadiums," Abdo said.
"The Queensland government ... really did come to the table with an opportunity to help us."
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Meanwhile, Tariq Sims spent four years of his NRL career playing in Townsville and knows better than most how deep the hatred runs for NSW during Origin time in Far North Queensland.
Townsville will host the series opener on June 9, leaving the Blues to digest the thought of playing the first two games of the series in enemy territory.
It's a call that hands a significant advantage to the Maroons in defence of their 2020 series win.
Second-rower Sims made his NRL debut for the Cowboys in 2011 and left at the end of 2014, a good four years before he pulled on a Blues jersey.
And still he felt the heat from the Maroons-crazed locals.
"They're mad. They're mad as cut snakes for football in North Queensland," Sims said.
"That's one of those things that I admired about them actually is how much rugby league is a religion to them.
"Playing in front of some pretty passionate fans up there ... that will be interesting."
The opening match of the series was set to be held at the MCG but has been forced to be relocated as Victoria deals with its latest COVID-19 outbreak.
As part of the new agreement with the Victorian government, Origin will return to Melbourne in 2024 and 2026.
This year will be the first time since 2017 that either NSW or Queensland has hosted two matches of the series, but the first time since 1982 a state has hosted the opening two games.
In both cases Brisbane was the host city.
Adding to the worry is the Blues' poor record in Queensland, winning just 19 of 59 games in the state, including just two of the past 14.
However, moving the game to Townsville from Melbourne will soften the financial blow of cancelling the opener at the MCG on short notice. with AAP.