Rugby league will have the chance to break the world record for the biggest crowd at a sporting event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when State of Origin kicks off in Melbourne on June 9.
At the series launch at a picturesque Melbourne Arts Centre on Wednesday, Victorian MP Martin Pakula confirmed that 85,000 spectators would be allowed into the MCG for game one of the best-of-three series between the defending champion Queensland Maroons and NSW Blues.
ARL Commissioner Peter Beattie is backing sports-mad Melburnians to come out in big numbers and eclipse the 78,113 fans that attended the AFL's traditional Anzac Day clash between Collingwood and Essendon.
"The fact there were, in 2015, 91,000 fans here [for State of Origin], 87,000 last time in 2018, shows there's an appetite for rugby league in Melbourne," he said.
"What I find in Melbourne and I've got family here, people love AFL and they also love rugby league - they're sports nuts.
Raudonikis remembers the first ever State of Origin
"Frankly, that's terrific, that's what I love about Melbourne.
"And, look at the MCG, look at the facilities you've got here, this is without a doubt the best sporting precinct in Australia, and as a Queenslander who lives in Sydney, you can imagine how much that pains me to say that."
The return of the Ampol State of Origin series to Melbourne has brought the memories flooding back for Queensland forward Felise Kaufusi and Storm teammate Josh Addo-Carr, who is a certainty to line up on the wing for the Blues.
Match Highlights: State of Origin I - NSW 22 QLD 12
The last time the Maroons and NSW locked horns in the cauldron of the MCG for game one of the 2018 series, Kaufusi and Addo-Carr were making their Origin debuts.
That night will be remembered fondly by Blues fans as the 22-12 triumph set the scene for the state's first series win since 2014.
Even though he was on the losing end of the ledger, that night still holds a special place in Kaufusi's heart.
"I debuted with Foxx there in 2018 and there were 85,000 plus there and it was pretty exciting," he said.
"You do feel a bit of adrenalin when you run out there and take a little glimpse and have a look around.
"I'm pretty excited to run out there again if I get that chance."
Kaufusi described it as an incredible experience just to observe as a spectator at a packed MCG.
Green ready for Maroons challenge
He said it was a "massive privilege" to have had the chance to don the Maroon jersey in one of Australia's great sporting rivalries.
"I'd been there for a couple of AFL games, but to actually play on it myself was a massive privilege," Kaufusi said.
"It's one for the grandkids where I can say I actually got to run out there."
Kaufusi understands what hosting such a major sporting event in Melbourne will do for the psyche of Victorians.
The state had to endure harsh lockdown restrictions due to the pandemic last year, forcing most sporting events to be cancelled or moved interstate.
"Given what happened last year and the whole shutdown of Victoria, I think it's great for Melburnians to get around us and I'm looking forward to having a big crowd there," he said.
Addo-Carr finishes great NSW try
Addo-Carr, who scored a try in his Origin debut at the MCG, had the chance to take in a bird's eye view of the venue recently and was gobsmacked by the enormity of the stadium.
"It's something I'll never forget and my family will never forget," he said. "The ground is pretty special.
"It was a blessing to be on top of the MCG and see how big it is and see how many seats there are."
Addo-Carr will be like a kid at Christmas opening a present if he gets his call from coach Brad Fittler to say he is in the team.
"It's always a blessing and I'm very grateful to put the Blues jersey on every time," Addo-Carr said.
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