Eastern states miffed as Adelaide snaffles rugby league Origin match

Adelaide will host a State of Origin match when rugby league’s fiercest series hits the road again in 2020, in a move that has led to some consternation in the eastern states.

Feb 14, 2018, updated Feb 14, 2018
State of Origin attracts a fanatical following and huge television audiences. Photo: AAP/Darren England

State of Origin attracts a fanatical following and huge television audiences. Photo: AAP/Darren England

The deal between the NRL and the South Australian government sets up the third consecutive series in which a game is played outside NSW and Queensland.

Melbourne is set to host its ninth State of Origin match in 2018 before the series ventures to Perth for the first time in 2019.

The only other city to host a game of the series is California’s Los Angeles in 1987.

The South Australian government described the deal as “another massive coup” for the Adelaide Oval.

Adelaide’s premier sporting venue has hosted three NRL matches since 2010 and is set to host a fourth in Round 16 this year when the Roosters face the Storm.

But crowds for the three games have reached a combined 41,800 – well short of the ground’s 53,500 capacity.

The move to bring rugby league’s biggest contest to South Australia – a non-traditional state for the sport, despite Adelaide briefly hosting a “super-league” team in the 1990s – caused some scratching of heads, even anger, on the eastern seaboard.

Queensland Opposition Leader Deb Frecklington tweeted her dismay.

Others weighed in, arguing it would do nothing to grow rugby league in South Australia.

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The three Queensland Katter’s Australian Party MPs will wear maroon armbands into the first sitting of Queensland’s state parliament this year to protest matches being played outside the game’s traditional strongholds.

KAP leader Robbie Katter said if an Origin game was held outside traditional venues in Brisbane or Sydney in the annual three-match series it should be moved elsewhere in Queensland, like Townsville.

Townsville Stadium with a 25,000-seat capacity doesn’t have the earning potential of Adelaide Oval which can seat 53,500, but Katter said the NRL should be rewarding the game’s heartland.

“This is about loyalty and thanking those people who helped build and underpin the game,” he told reporters. “It’s not always about expansion or commercialism, it’s about rewarding those people who really live and breathe it.”

However, South Australian Tourism Minister Leon Bignell was triumphant, saying attracting the game was a win for tourism in South Australia.

While he would not reveal how much the Government paid to secure a game, which he hopes is the second of the three-match series, he insisted the investment would make a significant economic return by attracting visitors to South Australia and promoting the state on television.

“Most of Australia is glued to the TV when the State of Origin is on,” he said. “There have been so many great games between the Blues and the Maroons and it’s brilliant we’ll be able to cheer them on live at Adelaide Oval in 2020.”

NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said that while Adelaide was a new market in terms of hosting a match, Origin was a popular event in the city.

“Melbourne embraced State of Origin in 2015 and we expect another special night at the MCG for Game One this year,” Greenberg said.

“The fact that this contest will be embraced by Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide in consecutive years is a significant coup for the game.”

– with AAP

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