The Origin landscape may well change very soon, with the city of Melbourne in Victoria keen on securing at least one State of Origin game every year, with the NRL possibly accruing an additional $2.5 million annually, if they take a game to Melbourne.
With the chance to have TV ratings soar as a result – given that QLD and NSW fans will be watching from their households, it is expected that should the move eventuate, ratings will double.
“You can’t put a value on the promotion the game delivers for rugby league,” said NRL marketing director Paul Kind. “We’re virtually given the keys to the city for 10 days.
“The Origin is on billboards, trams, flags and through the media.”
For all the support that such a bid may have behind it, NSW premier Barry O’Farrell is against the idea – saying that you cannot move Origin from the NSW heartland.
“It belongs to us … arousing the passion of league fans from Campbelltown to Cooktown, from Tamworth to Townsville,” he said.
“It should not be auctioned off on eBay like some unwanted gift from your mother-in-law.
“As a passionate league fan I want the game to grow and prosper but the State of Origin is our holy grail.”
Despite O’Farrell’s sentiments however, the new commission is under increased pressure from certain factions to take advantage of the NRL’s growing popularity.
The vocal NSW supporters group, the Blatchy Blues, who are expected to have around 17,000 fans at the game, understand the reasoning behind the move, even if it means they lose the chance to attend the Sydney game/s.
“It’s become such a big spectacle you have to move markets that are willing to pay for it,” said Dan Blatch.
“We need all the help we can get with the home ground advantage in Sydney, but I can understand they are looking at all options.”
Daryl Kerry, the ANZ boss, is expecting to see ANZ Stadium sold out (80,000), when the Blues only game is on during Origin, on June 13.
“It has become one of the world’s great football rivalries and is clearly one of the biggest sporting events in this country every year in terms of TV ratings, attendance, passion and financial benefits to the game and the State, Kerry said.
“Naturally our job is to do everything we can to secure every game NSW is entitled to.
“However, what also needs to be considered is the fact a lot of people have worked very hard over the last five years to get Origin to a whole new level in NSW – we now have a coach who absolutely bleeds for the case – and it would be a shame to lose that momentum.”
Ricky Stuart, who currently coaches the NSW Blues is against the idea however, saying that he cannot believe the game even takes Origin games to Melbourne in the first place.
“While the AFL is putting millions into trying to kickstart their game in Western Sydney we are taking our biggest game of the season away from our people,” Stuart said.
“Let us take Origin to Melbourne the day we can go to Randwick and watch the Cox Plate.”