NRL Targeting Record Crowd for State of Origin Clash

Fri, Apr 19, 2024
by CapperTek

National Rugby League (NRL) bosses are hoping the upcoming State of Origin series will be the perfect vehicle to showcase the sport to international audiences.

The NRL is targeting a record-breaking crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) for the State of Origin’s first visit to the city in six years.

Graham Annesley, the NRL’s head of elite football, is confident the 100,000-capacity stadium will be a sell-out for the second game of the series on June 26.

The annual best-of-three rugby league series between two state representative sides - the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons – generate massive interest in Australia.

Online bookmakers are among the sectors which benefit, with millions of Australian sports fans eager to wager on each of the State of Origin matches.

Activity on betting apps for sports spikes massively when the games are played, highlighting the popularity of a sport the NRL is keen to grow overseas.

The State of Origin has previously been staged just once in a foreign country, with Los Angeles in the United States hosting a match in 1987.

The NRL remains eager to broaden its horizons – a point evidenced the league staging two regular season matches in the US at the start of last month.

While there was a healthy in-person attendance for the matches, the US television ratings and betting turnover failed to cause much of a ripple. It was a different story in Australia.

The games set a new record for domestic viewership and the NRL believes rugby league’s popularity in Australia will eventually be matched in overseas markets.

The NRLs commitment to establishing strong foundations in the US went beyond the two fixtures, with various other activities staged to boost engagement.

Showcasing the State of Origin is the next step along the road, with the three-game series scheduled to be broadcast in the US and other international jurisdictions.

However, it may be a few years before the NRL is able to take State of Origin on the road, with deals already in place with the Western Australian government to hold games in Perth (2025 & 2028).

Victoria will reportedly host a match in 2026, leaving 2027 as the first opportunity for the NRL to stage a game overseas.

New Zealand has been pushing hard to host a State of Origin game, but the temptation to head back to the US could be tough for the Australian Rugby League Commission to resist.

In the short term, league bosses will use the game at the MCG on June 26 to showcase the very best the NRL has to offer to international audiences.

The annual battle between Queensland and New South Wales is always a fiercely fought affair contested by the finest exponents of rugby league in the world.

If the State of Origin match at a sold-out MCG fails to enthuse audiences in the NRL’s target markets, they may have to reconsider their ambitious global expansion plans.