ANZ Stadium’s underground tunnel will be used again for the first time since the 2000 Sydney Olympics in a move designed to boost the atmosphere at next week’s State of Origin III rugby league decider match.
The State of Origin series is an annual best-of-three rugby league matches between two Australian state representative sides, the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons.
The 2019 series is tied after NSW took Game 2 in Perth with a commanding 38-6 win after Queensland won the series opener 18-14 in Brisbane.
The NSW Blues, which calls ANZ Stadium home, will emerge from an underground tunnel, through a guard of honour formed by fans and onto the playing field at the 83,500-capacity venue.
The State of Origin Series decider, which takes place on Wednesday July 10, will mark the first time the tunnel has been used by a sports team.
Image: ANZ Stadium
NSWRL chief executive David Trodden said: “It will be an historic night for players and fans as NSW aims to defend the Shield it won last year. The addition of the Centre of Excellence and tunnel access to ANZ Stadium has made our house an even more formidable force to tackle Queensland.”
The Blues will warm-up on a playing field across the road from ANZ Stadium, receive their final instructions in dressing rooms at the NSWRL Centre of Excellence, walk past a wall that lists every NSW player and down a corridor that honours the players in the NSWRL The Star Hall of Fame.
The tunnel will be fitted with cameras to give fans inside ANZ Stadium an insight into the build-up for the Origin decider on the big screens.
ANZ Stadium chief executive Daryl Kerry said: “The connection between the Brydens Lawyers Blues and their home stadium has never been stronger, with the NSWRL Centre of Excellence now well established next to ANZ Stadium in Sydney Olympic Park.
“It is only fitting that the tunnel that once provided exclusive access to the Stadium for the athletes of the 2000 Sydney Olympics will now be walked by the players who will represent NSW in one of the biggest State of Origin games in history.
“It will be an iconic sporting moment when the Blues make their way from their home base in to ANZ Stadium.”
Last month, a timeline for the redevelopment of the Sydney stadium was revealed following a meeting between the National Rugby League (NRL) and its clubs.
The clubs were told that work on ANZ Stadium would begin after the 2020 State of Origin series, in which the venue will host one game. Although a date has yet to be decided for the fixture, The Australian newspaper said work is expected to commence in June, meaning the NRL will need to find a new host for its grand finals in 2020, 2021 and 2022.