Melbourne, Perth and now Adelaide – taking Holden State of Origin to Adelaide Oval demonstrates there is genuine bidding among cities for marquee matches, as well as a desire from the NRL to expand the game.
The fixture, which the South Australian Government hopes will be on the Sunday night of the 2020 standalone representative weekend, is set to generate more than $10 million for the game and a similar amount for the Adelaide economy.
There are also longer-term benefits with television ratings in Melbourne soaring in recent years for Origin, the NRL grand final and other big matches.
The move follows the awarding of the opening game of this year’s series to Melbourne and a 2019 Origin to Perth, which will also host an NRL double-header at the city’s new 60,000-seat stadium in round one on March 10.
Sydney and Brisbane will continue to have one home match each series but the interest from neutral cities is such that the NSW and Queensland governments are likely to have to bid for a second Origin in the same year.
Taking one match each series to a neutral venue alleviates pressure to try and sell two Origins in Sydney or Brisbane.
Additionally, the two biggest stadiums in Sydney – Allianz Stadium and ANZ Stadium – are due to be rebuilt in coming seasons and both will be out of action in 2020.
Besides the money, governments are prepared to pay for the right to host an Origin fixture with Perth and Adelaide able to offer “clean” venues – a requirement for major events such as Olympics or World Cups.
This means the NRL has control of all advertising in the venue and is able to sell each of the 60,000 seats at the revamped Adelaide Oval or the new Perth stadium, as none will be excluded as part of membership deals with the stadiums.
With the SA Government predicting that travelling fans for the 2020 Origin will inject $15 million into the Adelaide economy, more cities are expected to bid for matches with Auckland having repeatedly expressed interest in hosting an Origin at Eden Park.
The fact Adelaide Oval hosted last year’s Anthony Mundine-Danny Green rematch and will be the venue for Cooper Cronk’s first match with the Sydney Roosters against his former Melbourne Storm teammates on June 29, underlines the city’s ambitions for the stadium.
However, there is no likelihood of an Adelaide team returning to the NRL in the immediate future, with a second Brisbane side and Perth the clear favourites if new clubs are introduced to the Telstra Premiership.
The Rams folded in 1998 and while the game has come a long way since the SARL grand final had to be played behind bars because a jail team qualified and they could not play away games, there has been little interest in reviving an Adelaide NRL side.
Instead, the NRL hopes to use Origin to grow the number of fans who support or follow the game and the trend in Melbourne suggests there will be an increase in Adelaide viewing figures from this year.
Since taking Origin to Melbourne in 2006, ratings have steadily increased and last year’s series attracted more than 300,000 viewers per game in the Victorian capital, while the NRL grand final drew a television audience of 644,000 in the city.
After hosting an Origin in 2006, 2009, 2012, 2015 and 2018, Melbourne is expected to bid for another match at the MCG in 2021 but the decision to take games to Perth and Adelaide indicates they will face competition from other cities.