The 2021 Ampol State of Origin series opener will be played at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville next Wednesday, 9 June.
The Australian Rugby League Commission and the Victorian Government today approved the relocation of the game from the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) after the COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne.
Melbourne will now host games in 2024 and 2026.
National Rugby League (NRL) Chief Executive Officer 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.
“Despite the challenges, COVID has also presented some unique opportunities, and playing Ampol State of Origin in Townsville for the very first time is another one of those occasions. 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 of Ampol State of Origin.
“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.
“Public safety is our absolute priority and given the current outbreak, it remains uncertain whether we could host a mass gathering in Melbourne next week.
“We’re excited to confirm that Origin will return to Melbourne in both 2024 and 2026.”
Mr Abdo thanked all governments who offered to host Origin next Wednesday.
“The interest in hosting Game I next week has been remarkable. It shows the strength of Ampol State of Origin and I want to genuinely thank all governments for their ongoing support.”
Tickets for Game I in Townsville will go on sale to North Queensland Cowboys Members, Maroon Members and Blatchys Blues at 1pm on Wednesday. General admission tickets will be available at 3pm on Wednesday from $49 via nrl.com/tickets.