Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL) has announced that its State of Origin series will return to the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) this year.

The iconic 100,000-capacity venue will host the first game of the series on June 9 before Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane stages the second game on June 27. The series will conclude at Sydney’s Stadium Australia (formerly ANZ Stadium) on July 14.

The State of Origin is contested by representative teams from New South Wales and Queensland, with games traditionally held in these two states. The NRL also takes the series to other markets, with the Adelaide Oval staging a game last year and Perth’s Optus Stadium hosting a clash in 2019.

This year will mark Melbourne’s 10th time staging a State of Origin game. The 2018 series was the last time MCG was used as a host venue.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said: “We’re excited to be taking Australia’s biggest sporting brand to Melbourne for the 10th time.

“The last year has been incredibly challenging for Victorians with the extended lockdowns and challenges. We’re delighted to be bringing Ampol State of Origin back to the city. It will give fans an exceptional live sports experience and bring interstate visitors back to the hotels and restaurants.”

Martin Pakula, Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events, added: “Victoria is the home of the biggest sporting events and we’re thrilled to be welcoming State of Origin back to the MCG.

“This is a win for all sports fans and we’ll work with the NRL to ensure that Melbourne puts on a spectacular show while protecting the health of the wider community.”

The deciding game of the 2020 State of Origin at Suncorp Stadium back in November attracted a crowd of 49,155, which marked the biggest attendance in world sport since the outbreak of the pandemic last March.

Last year’s games at the Adelaide Oval and ANZ Stadium attracted crowds of 24,218 and 36,212, respectively, in line with COVID-19 restrictions.

Image: Richard Munckton/CC BY 2.0/Edited for size