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McDonald Jones Stadium to create Sky Blues’ Origin cauldron

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McDonald Jones Stadium manager Dean Mantle is hoping the Newcastle venue becomes the NSW Sky Blues’ own State of Origin cauldron.

And, with a sell-out crowd announced on Friday night (31 May), there’s every chance it could rival Queensland’s Lang Park in one of rugby league’s fiercest rivalries.

The Sky Blues and Maroons attracted 25,492 to game one of the 2024 women’s series earlier in the month.

But, that figure is set to be surpassed when the two combatants face off in the next instalment in the Hunter on Thursday 6 June.

“We want to make McDonald Jones Stadium as intimidating as we can to support our girls,” Mantle said.

“I think we’re a good chance to do that.

“Given our track record with the NRLW and some of the milestones that we’ve set there, the constant support here locally for not only the (Newcastle) Knights, but women’s sport in general, has been huge.

“It’s a key factor to how we’ve managed to secure these types of events.

“Due to the really positive response we’ve had to ticket sales, the State of Origin clash is going to be a massive, massive affair.

“I’m confident we’ll quite easily take the record off Suncorp Stadium from the previous match.
“And, I believe we are well and truly in a position to create that atmosphere and solidify Newcastle as a place they can return to on an annual basis.

“If we can do that moving forward, it’d be great.

“There’s no reason for the Women’s State of Origin not to come back… until perhaps when they outgrow us.

“It’s similar to what we experienced with the Matildas.

“They came in and we were setting records with them.

“Now, they’ve moved on to selling huge amounts of tickets at Accor Stadium.

“I hope we can be the place the Sky Blues come to or call their NSW base for some time yet.

“And, hopefully, it’s a sign of bigger things for them.

“It would be great to see the girls need larger venues and, possibly, selling 85,000 tickets at Accor down the track.”

To add to the atmosphere, the local ground staff have also showcased their creative side.

“We’ve installed a bit of support signage for NSW,” Mantle told the Newcastle Weekly.

“The words Let’s Go Sky Blues have been etched the full width of The South Hill.

“Then, sitting directly below the new big screen, we’ve got some imagery and stuff like that.

“We just felt as a Venues NSW site, in the days leading up to the event, we needed to let people know we’re firmly behind our state side and that they’ve got the best of everything to make next week work.”

Mantle admitted the selection of Knights’ quartet Yasmin Clydsdale, Caitlan Johnston, Olivia Higgins and Tamika Upton on the State of Origin stage was also a recipe for success.

“It’s massive,” he said.

“I think anytime some of the local girls, men or women – anyone – get involved in some of these big events, it’s huge for Newcastle.

“Honestly, I believe it’s a primary reason why people are getting behind it.

“The success of the Knights NLW team is enormous… and it continues to grow.

“Their support base here in the Hunter is massive, so that plays a major role when we’re trying to secure these events and making them what they’re going to be next Thursday.

“It’s great and really exciting to have NSW here.

“Fingers crossed, they come out, and like Yasmin did in game one, play their hearts out and come home with the goods.”

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