Blues players will not set foot in ANZ Stadium for State of Origin matches until they arrive on the field for kick-off through a tunnel lined with the names and images of former greats linking the ground to the adjoining NSWRL Centre of Excellence.
The state-of-the-art facility, which was officially opened on Tuesday by NSW Sports Minister Stuart Ayres at a function attended by 180 of the state’s most influential players and administrators, features a warm-up field, change rooms and high-performance facilities for the Blues players.
No detail has been forgotten, with the grass on the warm-up field replicating the playing surface at ANZ Stadium, while there is a hydrotherapy centre with plunge and resistance pools, medical and recovery rooms and a media theatre seating up to 60 people.
Sponsors and other guests will be able to watch the players warm up from a dining and lounge area overlooking the training field, which leads directly to a gymnasium.
After returning to the dressing rooms to receive final instructions from NSW coach Brad Fittler, the Blues players will walk through a tunnel under Dawn Fraser Avenue which will be fitted out to ensure they soak up the atmosphere before kick-off.
Inside the NSWRL centre of excellence
Inheritance, Legacy and Respect are written in large letters on the walls of the three-story building, which will house the offices of the NSWRL, Country Rugby League and Men of League.
On the front of the building, which features a NSW museum that includes signed playing contracts for Fittler (Roosters) and Andrew Johns (Knights), is the iconic image of Steve Mortimer being chaired from the SCG by teammates after leading the Blues to their first series win in 1985.
"I feel very proud," Mortimer said. "As a New South Welshman, I have as much passion as everyone says Queensland have. I remember collapsing, kissing the ground and thanking God after we won that match."
Other areas of the facility are named after those who have influenced the modern game in NSW.
Among them are the Laurie Daley Cardio Room, the John Quayle Lecture Theatre, the Bob Fulton Dressing Room, the Brad Fittler Lounge, the Ken Arthurson Boardroom, the Paul Broughton Research Centre and the Wayne Pearce Gym.
"Back when I played it was the old ‘Rocky’ days, you never had any of this stuff," Pearce said. "It was just weights and lots of running, but nowadays the game is so scientific and I think this will benefit not only the current State of Origin team but the young players coming through the game around the state."
This will benefit not only the current State of Origin team but the young players coming through the game.Wayne Pearce
The CoE has been labelled a “game changer” and NSWRL CEO David Trodden described it as the "best high performance facility in the rugby league world".
Fittler, who can watch the players train from his office, said the fulfilment of a four-year vision by the NSWRL board would benefit not only the current Blues but the next generation of Origin players.
"We are going to bring a lot of schools through here so there is going to be a lot of other people using it other than the Origin team but I think the actual tunnel, the warm-up facilities and the recovery facilities are A-class so they will get that advantage," Fittler said.
"The thing is that Sydney is game three so we are going to need to win a game before then.
"We have got an opportunity here that no one has ever had before in Australia, other than the Olympians who were here in 2000, so we need to make it an experience that every single person who is here for game three in Sydney will remember."