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Townsville Becomes First Regional State Of Origin Host

T
he NRL has announced the 2021 Ampol State of Origin series opener will be played in Townsville at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.

The decision comes after the snap COVID-19 lockdown in Melbourne, who was set to host the game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) next Wednesday.

Townsville is now set to become the first regional town in Australia to host the event, with every previous edition either being held in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, or California (1987).

NRL CEO, Andrew Abdo said relocating to Townsville was the best option, despite criticism from fans that the choice is unfair for the NSW side who will now play two of the three games in Queensland.

“We’re operating in a pandemic and our absolute priority is ensuring the continuity of the competition and our major events,” Abdo said.

“Townsville has the lowest risk of a COVID outbreak impacting the game and the least financial fallout of the available venues.

“Townsville is also a new, state of the art venue, with the capabilities to host an event with a global audience like Origin, placing it ahead of alternation regional locations.

“Despite the challenges, COVID has also presented some unique opportunities, and playing Ampol State of Origin in Townsville for the very first time is another one of those occasions.

“The passion North Queenslanders have for our game is something special and we’re really excited to reward the region with an Origin game.

“I understand some fans will have wanted a neutral venue but the reality is we are working within a pandemic and we have to make decisions that ensure Origin proceeds as scheduled and with the lowest financial impact on the game,” he said.

Announcing the decision, Abdo also confirmed the series will return to Melbourne in 2024 and 2026, following a new partnership with the Victorian Government and Visit Victoria.