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He may have been a reluctant tourist but NSW VB Blues coach Ricky Stuart is promising Victorians will be treated to a 2012 Harvey Norman State of Origin Series spectacle unlike any they have ever seen before.

With tickets for the Etihad Stadium match next May going on sale to the general public from 10am tomorrow, Stuart today joined with one of the Queensland stars who shattered his Origin dreams this season – Storm captain Cameron Smith – to outline his plans to finally wrest the prized Origin Shield back from the Maroons.

Stuart did not back down from his claim that he wanted to play the match in Sydney and take every possible advantage the Blues could to stop the Maroons from winning a seventh straight series.

But he is now more determined than ever to turn Etihad Stadium into a new Blues fortress – and with Blatchy’s Blues founder Dan Blatch joining him to unveil plans for an interstate invasion of blue-wigged fans, Stuart said Victorian supporters had a unique opportunity to be part of the greatest rivalry in sport.

“It’s no secret I would have loved to have played this game in Sydney. That’s nothing against Melbourne, it’s just such a prize to host the opening match,” Stuart said today.

“We face an enormous challenge to beat this Queensland side. We took some big steps towards achieving that this year and a big part of that was the atmosphere the fans created at ANZ Stadium.

“Origin games have been played in Melbourne before but not like this, not with the colour and atmosphere that the Blatchy’s Blues will bring to Etihad Stadium next year.

“We are going to have thousands of fans travelling down from Sydney for this game here and I would love to see all the fans across Victoria join them in their blue wigs and be part of a great sporting experience.”

In typical Origin spirit, Smith was quick to establish the Maroons’ claims to the hearts of Victorian fans.

The Wally Lewis Medal winner as the best player in this year’s Harvey Norman State of Origin Series, Smith said that he and fellow 2011 Storm Origin stars Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Dane Neilsen would love nothing more than to have the chance to play in next year’s series opener in front of their loyal fans.

“Victorian sports fans are among the most passionate in the world and I know they will come out in force to support Rugby League and in particular Origin,” Smith said.

“The Queensland side has always received a great reception in Victoria and I have no doubt there will be plenty of Maroon support down here again.

“From a Storm perspective, it’s great to have the pinnacle of Rugby League in Melbourne. The match will have a positive impact on our ongoing commitment to grow the game across Victoria.

“It’s a great reward for the fans here who support the Storm week in, week out, to see an Origin game live in Melbourne and I’d be proud to run out in front of them.”

ARL Chief Executive Geoff Carr, Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Hon. Louise Asher MP, Victorian Minister for Sport and Recreation, the Hon. Hugh Delahunty MP and Storm CEO, Mr Ron Gauci, were among the guests joining Stuart and Smith at the Sofitel on Collins in Melbourne today to begin the countdown to the 2012 series.

The 2012 clash will be the second series opener and the sixth Harvey Norman State of Origin match to be staged in Melbourne, continuing a partnership between the Australian Rugby League, the Victorian Major Events Company and the Victorian Government that has also featured Rugby League World Cup matches and the VB Test that officially opened AAMI Park last year.

“Since 2005 our partnership with the VMEC and Victorian Government has brought some truly memorable events in Australian sport to Melbourne and they have attracted sell-out crowds,” ARL Chief Executive, Mr Geoff Carr, said today.

“To once again host a series opener here shows just how successful that partnership has been and once again fans from not just Victoria but across Australia will converge on Melbourne to be part of something that they are really going to enjoy.”

Victorian Minister for Tourism and Major Events, the Hon Louise Asher MP, said today: “Victoria has long been recognised as the sporting capital of Australia and this State of Origin game will be a great addition to our world-class major events calendar.”

Victorian Minister for Sport and Recreation, the Hon Hugh Delahunty MP, added: “We are proud of our partnership with the ARL and this game will attract thousands of Rugby League fans from two of our key interstate markets and deliver significant economic benefits for the State.”

Game 2 of the 2012 Harvey Norman State of Origin Series will be held at Sydney’s ANZ Stadium with Game 3 to be played at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium.

2012 Harvey Norman State of Origin Series
Game 1, Wednesday, May 23, Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Tickets are available through Ticketmaster on 136100, at or at Ticketmaster outlets.

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Level 1 Supporter Bay Ticket Prices*

*Tickets include a blue t-shirt and wig for NSW fans and a maroon t-shirt and headwear for Queensland fans.

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