Newcastle legend Danny Buderus has declared his home city will turn into “Bluecastle” for its introduction to State of Origin rugby league, setting a perfect stage for a NSW sweep of the interstate series.
The Hunter will host its maiden Origin match next Wednesday night 14 July, after the call was made to move Game III out of Sydney following the extension of the city’s lockdown into a third week.
McDonald Jones Stadium will cater for up to 20,000 fans, or 75% of seated capacity, after a switch from Stadium Australia.
The regional venue allows NSW to stage a home fixture during the three-game showpiece instead of a finale played in Queensland, Melbourne or Canberra.
It will give NSW a chance to lift the shield in front of a home crowd after the Blues dominated the first two encounters in Queensland.
And, Buderus expects the crowd to be as one-sided as the ones Queensland offered up in Townsville and Brisbane, except this time it will be to the Blues’ advantage.
Townsville’s first Origin for Game I created headlines for a blatantly one-eyed crowd after a mere 500 tickets were bought by NSW-based fans.
But, NSW now have the chance to respond in kind.
“With 20,000 there, hopefully it can inspire the next Hunter region generation of players to want to be Blues players,” Buderus told AAP.
“This group has far from finished off what we set out to do.
“It’d been a shame to think they might not be able to celebrate at home.
“However, now it’s there, it’s that’s the next big thing, to fire up the crowd to make sure it’s all blue.
“Make it Bluecastle. Tszyucastle (for the Tim Tszyu fight) and then Bluecastle for Origin.”
Buderus credited Blues coach Brad Fittler for changing the mood around country NSW, through the annual Hogs For The Homeless bike tour every year since 2013 during Queensland’s dominance.
“We went thousands and thousands of kilometres and they were all Johnathan Thurston fans or Cameron Smith fans,” he said.
“Everywhere we went there were maroon jerseys. And, we thought how can we change this?
“That was a big thing, so we gave away a NSW Blues footy no matter where we went.
“And, now I am sure these kids are growing up watching all these kids going for the Blues. (Tom) Trbojevic and Latrell (Mitchell).”
With the border open to regional NSW, Queenslanders will however still be able to buy tickets but fans located in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour will be left out.
It comes as Friday night’s clash between South Sydney and North Queensland was also moved to Newcastle from Stadium Australia to meet Queensland Health orders after a venue in Sydney’s Olympic Park became a COVID-19 exposure site.
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