The NRL will stage State of Origin matches at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground in 2015 and 2018.
CEO Dave Smith said today Origin matches were among the biggest events on the Australian sporting calendar.
He said that, in line with the NRL’s policy of playing one game outside Sydney and Brisbane every three years, the second Origin match of 2015 would be staged at the MCG.
It will be the first time Origin has been played at the MCG in 18 years.
An Origin match will also be played at the MCG in 2018.
Mr Smith said the NRL’s partnership with the Victorian Government would provide a massive boost for Rugby League in Melbourne.
“I think anyone who saw last week’s Origin game in Brisbane will realise that Melbourne has secured the best sporting event in Australia,” he said.
“There is nothing which can match the passion, desperation, skill and excitement of Origin at its best.”
Victorian Premier, Dr Dennis Napthine said the agreement was terrific news for sports fans in Melbourne, Victoria and right around Australia.
He said he expected the Origin game to deliver a great result for the Victorian tourism industry and economy.
“State of Origin’s most recent game in Melbourne, played at Etihad Stadium in 2012, attracted a sell-out crowd of more than 56,000 including more than 20,000 visitors from outside Victoria, and delivered an economic benefit of more than $27 million,” he said.
“We are confident that with the additional capacity at the MCG, we can see these numbers increase. The first time a State of Origin match was held at the MCG was in 1994 with a crowd of more than 87,000 people.
Mr Smith said last week’s Origin match attracted an estimated television audience of more than 4 million viewers around Australia.
It also drew more than half a million viewers in Victoria, including 118,000 fans in regional Victoria.
“I can only imagine the atmosphere of an Origin game before a huge crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground,” he said.
“The players love nothing more than being part of such an important match on such a big stage.”
Mr Smith also announced that a key match in the Four Nations tournament would be played in Melbourne later this year.
He said the game between traditional rivals Australia and England would be played at AAMI Park on November 2.
He said the NRL was determined to grow the game in Melbourne.
“We want to have an impact, not just at the elite level but at the grassroots and junior levels as well,” he said.
“That’s why part of the funding from this partnership will go towards community development activities for rugby league in Victoria.”