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City welcomes historic State of Origin game

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While there is some trepidation about staging a major sporting event during a pandemic, most Novocastrians are celebrating the NRL’s decision to move the third State of Origin to the Hunter.

After the lockdown in Greater Sydney was extended into a third week on Wednesday 7 July, with COVID-19 cases continuing to climb, McDonald Jones Stadium will host rugby league’s showpiece event for the first time on 14 July.

Up to 20,000 fans, or 75% of seated capacity, can attend the showdown following the switch from Sydney’s Stadium Australia.

An estimated 2.5 million people are also expected to tune in for the final match of the series, reinforcing Newcastle as an emerging major-event city.

“We were a clear choice on the back of successful extravaganzas like this year’s World Surf League Newcastle Cup and the recent SAANZAR International Rugby Championship, both held safely during COVID-19,” Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes said.

“Newcastle has shown time and time again that it’s an outstanding host city for major events thanks to the support of this council, the professionalism of local providers and the passion of Novocastrians for sport, music and the arts.

“City of Newcastle boasts a strategic focus on attracting and retaining major events as they stimulate the local economy, attract visitors, provide recreational opportunities for locals and enhance our position as a truly global city.

“Rugby league is part of Newcastle’s history and social fabric, which is why a State of Origin played right here at McDonald Jones Stadium is a big win for everyone.

“I would like to thank the Deputy Premier John Barilaro for his advocacy to bring this historic match to Newcastle.”

Supporters located in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour, won’t be permitted to buy tickets.

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said it was a reward for league fans in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley.

“These people are among the most passionate in our game,” he stated.

“They turn out and support the Knights every week and we are excited to bring State of Origin to Newcastle.

“One of the positives to come from the pandemic has been the opportunity to give passionate rugby league communities like Newcastle and Townsville the chance to host Origin when they otherwise wouldn’t.”

Newcastle, the venue for the Sydney Roosters-Melbourne game last round, will also host South Sydney’s Friday night NRL clash with North Queensland.

Also originally scheduled for Stadium Australia, it’s believed the Queensland Government pushed to have the fixture moved after a venue in Sydney’s Olympic Park became a COVID-19 exposure site.

The State of Origin will take place with all relevant COVIDSafe protocols in place and with NSW Police monitoring and enforcing Public Health Order restrictions.

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