Melbourne and Auckland have stepped up their bids for a slice of the State of Origin action, raising the spectre of the Queensland Government having to provide financial incentives to keep games at Suncorp Stadium.
Victoria Major Events’ contract to stage State of Origin matches finishes this year, but NSW Rugby League chief executive Geoff Carr confirmed on Thursday Victoria would do everything possible to take more games to Melbourne.
Origin I will be at Melbourne’s Etihad Stadium on May 23, Origin II in Sydney on June 13 with Origin III to be staged at Suncorp Stadium on July 4.
A game Sydney would otherwise host this year was awarded to Melbourne. Next year it is Queensland’s turn to host two matches and QRL chief executive Rob Moore said the Maroons wanted both games at Suncorp.
Moore said if Victoria Major Events “threw money on the table”, it could be hard to compete, especially if the new Australian Rugby League Commission made a decision based on financial terms.
“It brings into the equation the position of our State Government,” Moore said.
“None of that sort of money (put up by Victoria) has been provided by our government.
“They haven’t needed to, and I’m not suggesting they will have to throw massive amounts to keep the game here. But for the first time they may have to look at some incentives.”
Victoria Major Events is in the last year of its contract with the then ARL and it is believed the event fee payable for an Origin game in Melbourne is as much as $500,000 a game.
A new package of more than one Origin game and Tests in Melbourne covering several years to be negotiated with the ARL Commission is likely to net a seven-figure fee.
Origin games at Suncorp Stadium are invariably sold out within 48 hours, and with Queensland hosting just one game this year it will be the hottest ticket in town.
To capitalise on the game’s popularity an Origin festival is being planned to attract people to Brisbane for the whole week around Origin III, not just match day.
“It would be something similar to the Hong Kong Sevens,” Moore said. “The plan is to make Origin more than a game of footy, and obviously there would be great spin-offs for the economy.”
Auckland’s Eden Park, which will stage the round one NRL match between the Warriors and Manly on Sunday week, would be the venue for an Origin match should the stadium management be successful with its bid.
Manly’s Kiwi five-eighth Kieran Foran has hinted at an Origin concept for New Zealand, perhaps a North Island v South Island set-up, or Australian-raised Kiwis versus home-raised New Zealanders.
Foran was born in Auckland, but went to school in Sydney, where a teammate was Sydney Roosters and NSW star Mitchell Pearce.
by Buford Balony