State of Origin set to make history
The COVID-19 outbreak in Victoria has forced the rugby league State of Origin opener to be moved to Townsville on 9 June.
The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) and the Victorian Government approved the relocation of the game from the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Monday.
Melbourne will now host games in 2024 and 2026.
National Rugby League (NRL) chief executive Andrew Abdo said relocating to Townsville was the best option for the game.
"We’re operating in a pandemic and our absolute priority is ensuring the continuity of the competition and our major events," he said.
"Townsville has the lowest risk of a COVID outbreak impacting the game and the least financial fallout of the available venues.
"Townsville is also a new, state of the art venue, with the capabilities to host an event with a global audience like Origin, placing it ahead of alternate regional locations."
Mr Abdo said the game was excited to create history in Townsville.
"The passion North Queenslanders have for our game is something special and we’re really excited to reward the region with an Origin game.
"I understand some fans will have wanted a neutral venue but the reality is we are working within a pandemic and we have to make decisions that ensure Origin proceeds as scheduled and with the lowest financial impact on the game.
"I want to thank the Queensland Government, in particular Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, for her ongoing support of rugby league. We partnered together to have 130,000 fans at Magic Round and we are looking forward creating a special Origin next Wednesday."
Mr Abdo also thanked the Victorian Government and Visit Victoria for their support.
"We’re very disappointed that we can’t open the series at the MCG. We really wanted to bring a major event to Melbourne after everything Victorians have been through over the last year," he said.
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