Retired NRL star Blake Green has given the big “thumbs up” to Newcastle hosting the third State of Origin fixture next week.
With the lockdown in Greater Sydney extended again, due to COVID-19 cases continuing to climb, the code’s leading body opted to move the Wednesday 14 July showpiece event to the Hunter.
Now, up to 20,000 fans, or 75% of seated capacity, can attend the showdown following the switch from Sydney’s Stadium Australia.
Green, who recently hung up the boots after stints at the Parramatta Eels, Cronulla Sharks, Canterbury Bulldogs, New Zealand Warriors, Melbourne Storm, Manly Sea Eagles and Newcastle Knights, said the NRL’s decision was “great”.
“I think it’s brilliant, as long as people abide by the NSW Health guidelines,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.
“If they do that, it’s a fantastic coup for the region.
“There are a few different teams in the NRL where you have supporters – and you have fans.
“Newcastle has fans; they’re passionate, they’re here regardless of the weather or the performance of the side.
“They converge on McDonald Jones Stadium, cheering loud and proud.
“To give them the opportunity to see the highest spectacle we have in the game – State of Origin – and to bring it to a footy-mad town, it’s awesome.”
Green, who’ll guide the Knights’ NRLW side into its inaugural season in 2021, said the Hunter was truly a rugby league heartland.
“There’s a saying, when Newcastle’s doing well, the NRL’s doing well,” he stated.
“So, this is a just reward for not only the club and everyone else involved at the Knights but the local community.
“Even though it’s only going to be at 75% capacity, it’ll seem like there’s more people at the venue.
“I reckon tickets will sell quickly.”
The State of Origin will be held with all relevant COVIDSafe protocols in place and with NSW Police monitoring and enforcing Public Health Order (PHO) restrictions.
Tickets for the clash go on sale from Monday 12 July.
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.
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