State of Origin poised for shock move overseas
For the first time in 33 years, State of Origin rugby league could be taken overseas.
The NRL is considering playing a historic and ambitious State of Origin match in New Zealand should the Adelaide match in early November be cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
News Corp can reveal Perth has also made preliminary contact with the NRL about hosting another game this year.
The NRL and South Australian Government will decide whether to play the Adelaide Oval game - scheduled as Origin I on November 4 - in a fortnight.
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While the NRL remains confident the Adelaide match can proceed, alternate plans have been discussed including a game to be played in either New Zealand, Perth or possibly two matches at ANZ Stadium, Sydney.
The South Australian Tourism Commission will only agree to the match if social distancing restrictions have eased and a 53,500 capacity crowd can attend.
Adelaide Oval has also been booked on November 4 by the ICC for the T20 World Cup, further complicating the issue. If abandoned in Adelaide, the NRL will inquire about taking the game to Auckland's Eden Park.
One senior NRL official said: "New Zealand makes sense. We'll certainly look at it."
Having lifted all coronavirus and crowd restrictions, New Zealand's sporting events - including Super Rugby games - are being played before full stadiums. Eden Park holds 50,000 fans.
Matches in Australia may be played before a 25 per cent stadium capacity for the rest of this season - meaning Auckland would double if not triple crowds in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide or Perth.
To avoid quarantine restrictions, the NRL would require a trans-Tasman bubble to be introduced - a move currently being discussed by both Governments.
If implemented, New Zealand would present a genuine option to become the first Origin game played overseas since a historic game in Long Beach, California, back in 1987.
Perth hosted an Origin match last year at a sold out Optus Stadium and renewed interest has remerged again for this season should Adelaide be scrapped. Adelaide remains favourite to host the match with New Zealand ahead of Perth.
Some officials believe a three-hour plane journey to New Zealand would be considerably more economically lucrative than a similar journey to Adelaide or Perth.
Another and safer possibility could be playing two games at the 82,500-seat ANZ Stadium in Sydney and the third at the 52,000-seat Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane. A second game in Sydney - rather than Brisbane - would ensure increased revenue through ticket sales, corporate hospitality and merchandise.
It is understood the ICC will make their decision in mid-July, the delay further frustrating NRL management.
The Daily Telegraph revealed earlier this month that the NRL would bank up to $6m for taking a match to Adelaide.
The NRL desperately needs to maximise its Sate of Origin revenue after COVID has left the game haemorrhaging money.
Around 20,000 fans from rugby league's eastern states travelled to Perth for the game last year. The SA Government does though harbour concerns about eastern state supporters fans potentially carrying the virus into Adelaide.
The three Origin games were delayed due to COVID are will now be played on November 4, 11 and 18.
NRL rules stipulate one Origin match each year must be played in Sydney and Brisbane with the third being contested in a city or state which lodges the highest bid.
More than 40 per cent of tickets for Adelaide were sold within the first day of sale earlier this year.
Originally published as State of Origin poised for shock move overseas