Home » NRL targets record-breaking State of Origin crowd for game two in Melbourne

NRL targets record-breaking State of Origin crowd for game two in Melbourne

The NRL is targeting a sell-out and record-breaking MCG crowd for State of Origin’s first visit to Melbourne in six years, as a first match in New Zealand also looms in the near future.

Victoria’s historic stadium hosted the series launch on Tuesday, 50 days out from the first match in Sydney on 5 June.

The NRL’s head of elite football, Graham Annesley, said the league was “very confident” the 100,000-capacity ground will be full for game two on 26 June.

“We’re going to be doing everything we can to fill every single seat in the stadium,” he said.

Melbourne first set an Australian rugby league crowd record of more than 87,000 for an Origin game in 1994, and Victorian crowds have been consistent in the past decade. Game two in 2015 attracted 91,513 fans – still the Origin record – and game one in 2018 drew 87,122.

“It’s a fantastic standalone event, and there’s a lot of competition for it,” Annesley said.

“We’ve got state governments right around the country and in fact overseas in New Zealand as well, who are all very anxious to attract Origin because of the amount of tourism that it brings in each time.”

The NRL has a deal with the Western Australian government to hold a State of Origin game in Perth in 2025 and 2028.

Victoria will reportedly host another match in 2026, potentially leaving 2027 as the first opportunity for rugby league’s showpiece to go to New Zealand.

A match in 1987 was held in Los Angeles, the first and only time Origin has been played in a foreign country.

“I know that New Zealand would love to have an Origin, as with many other states on a more regular basis,” Annesley said. “But these are matters for the [Australian Rugby League] Commission to consider.”

James Tedesco of the Blues and Daly Cherry-Evans of the Maroons go head to head in State of Origin 2023. Photograph: Joel Carrett/AAP

Annesley, who was the referee for the 1994 MCG clash, attended the launch alongside the Queensland coach, Billy Slater, Maroons hooker Harry Grant, the new New South Wales coach, Michael Maguire, and former Blue Ben Elias.

“The noise when the crowd started cheering at the end of the anthems, going from dead silence to this crescendo, it felt like the noise was literally coming out of the turf,” he said.

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Elias said he could remember the 1994 match “like yesterday”, and tickets for this year’s clash would be “like hen’s teeth”.

Grant said he still needed to win selection, but that the MCG was a place Australian kids dream about playing on.

“The Boxing Day test, the AFL, and the Origin games you see over the years, so to be here in the flesh on the MCG floor, it’s pretty special,” he said.

“Melburnians really get behind their sports, it has the potential to be a full sell-out.”

Maguire is hoping to win back the shield last held by NSW in 2021. He said he is considering as many as 50 players for selection.

“When you look at NSW the state, it’s a real tough place, so I want to represent that with a team that shows that,” he said.

Game two in Melbourne takes place on Wednesday 26 June, followed by the third match in Brisbane on 17 July.