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Sydney’s COVID-19 outbreak sees State of Origin head to Newcastle

Newcastle will host a State of Origin rugby league game for the first time after the final match of this year’s series was relocated from Stadium Australia in Sydney, as the city fights against another COVID-19 outbreak.

New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian today (Wednesday) extended Greater Sydney’s lockdown by another week meaning it is now due to end at midnight on July 16. Stadium Australia was due to host the Origin game on July 14, but after approval from the NSW Government, and support through its tourism and major events agency Destination NSW, the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has now confirmed the match will be played at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium.

The July 14 match will be played in front of up to 20,000 fans, or 75% of seated capacity. Fans located in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour will not be permitted to purchase tickets.

The ARLC said Newcastle represents a safe option for the game with no community transmission, allowing fans to attend live and ensuring NSW will host a home game during the series. National Rugby League (NRL) chief executive Andrew Abdo added: “This is a reward for the people of Newcastle and Hunter region.

“These fans are among the most passionate fans in our game. They turn out and support the (Newcastle) Knights every week and we are excited to bring Ampol State of Origin to Newcastle.

“One of the positives to come from the pandemic has been the opportunity to give passionate rugby league communities like Newcastle and Townsville the chance to host Origin when they otherwise wouldn’t.”

Today’s news marks the second change to this year’s Origin series as Australia contends with COVID-19. The first game was played at Queensland Country Bank Stadium in Townsville following a COVID-19 outbreak in Melbourne.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) had been due to stage the game on June 9 but is now set to host games in 2024 and 2026 instead. This year would have been the first time the MCG had hosted an Origin game since 2018.

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.

The second game of this year’s State of Origin took place at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on June 27. NSW completed comfortable wins in the first two games and will be looking to seal its first 3-0 series victory since 2000 in Newcastle.

Image: NAPARAZZI/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size