Origin II could set all-time crowd record
NRL CEO Dave Smith is hopeful the huge Origin II clash at the MCG could set the record for the Origin attendance and be one of the biggest ever rugby league attendances.
With 24,000 fans travelling from interstate for a rare chance to watch rugby league be played on the hallowed turf of the MCG and more than 80,000 tickets already sold, there is a chance the Origin record of 87,161 – set at the MCG in 1994 – may be broken.
The all-time record for a match in Australia, 107,999 at ANZ Stadium (then Telstra Stadium) may never be broken, but Smith said the huge crowd expected this Wednesday is affirmation of the sport's plans to take its elite products to new markets to expand the game.
"Twenty-four thousand of our interstate fans will be here in the next few days to join us for what I suspect will be one of the biggest crowds ever to watch a game of rugby league," Smith said at the MCG on Monday.
"Holden State of Origin I is already the biggest show of the year, which peaked with a rating of 4.2 million viewers and that's not to mention the 80 thousand that packed into ANZ Stadium to see it live," he said.
"With the anticipated crowd on Wednesday night this could be the biggest attendance for an Origin series ever."
With a likely sellout crowd of around 52,000 set to pack Suncorp Stadium in three weeks time for what will either be a cracking decider or a chance for the home team to complete a whitewash, a total attendance of more than 220,000 across the three games is a distinct possibility.
Smith said the support for the event from Melbourne had been "phenomenal".
"We started the marketing of the game last year, which was the right thing to do, I won't give you a number [of expected ticket sales] but I'm hopeful it's going to be the biggest game of rugby league that's ever been watched."
In response to a question about taking Origin games out of NSW and Queensland, Smith said the current strategy of moving one game away every third is the right thing to do. Next year will see two games in NSW and 2017 will have two games in Queensland.
"We want to attract more and more fans. In Victoria last year there were something like 600,000 people watching [Origin] on TV which had grown from 2007 when there was around 50,000 so you can see there's real interest nationally about Origin and about the game in general," he said.
"It's the right thing to do to bring it to fans and I'm sure the 24,000 travelling folk from Queensland and NSW will do a great job cheering the team on and I believe it's a very educated sporting public down here so I think it's going to be a great atmosphere."