Rugby League: Eden Park make play to host Origin clash

Eden Park has had success hosting the NRL Nines tournament. Photo / Dean Purcell
Eden Park has had success hosting the NRL Nines tournament. Photo / Dean Purcell

Eden Park officials have begun moves to take State of Origin offshore for the first time in 32 years.

Melbourne demonstrated the economic strengths of fresh Origin markets when game 2 at the MCG last year generated $12 million.

Now Auckland wants a slice of State of Origin and Eden Park Trust chief executive Guy Ngata confirmed the 60,000-capacity venue is serious about hosting an Origin game and plans to submit a formal bid to NRL boss Todd Greenberg.

More than 200,000 Kiwis have flocked to Eden Park in the past three years for the NRL Nines, evidence for Ngata that Origin would be a success in New Zealand. The idea was suggested about three years ago and has become a more realistic ambition now with Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) having a good relationship with the NRL.

"If there is genuine interest from the NRL, there is genuine interest from us," Ngata said.

"As a venue, we are seriously interested in hosting an Origin game in Auckland so there is great intent from our end.

"It's now a matter of the nuts and bolts and what needs to be done to bring an Origin game to New Zealand. With Origin being the event that it is, it's a discussion we are having at the moment with Auckland Council and looking at their major-events strategy.

"Origin II the other night was a great advertisement for rugby league ... to bring that magnificent competition to New Zealand for the first time would be spectacular."

One of the biggest hurdles might be around whether Eden Park would receive permission to host a game which would kick off as late as 10.15pm and not finish until after midnight. There are a number of regulations around the timing and frequency of night games at Eden Park, and the local residents association have shown their power in the past.

Queensland and NSW have traditionally alternated the advantage of two home fixtures in either Sydney or Brisbane. But with Origin's five-year scheduling calendar ending next year, the ARL Commission are investigating whether an interstate game should be sold annually to markets such as Auckland, Perth and Melbourne.

Eden Park authorities are hopeful of securing an Origin game "as soon as possible". The most likely timeslot is 2019, with Melbourne due to receive another Origin clash in 2018.

The impending bid places further pressure on Sydney's ANZ Stadium, which faces the potential embarrassment of 30,000 empty seats for Origin III on July 13.

"I have no doubt we could fill Eden Park if we had an Origin game here," Ngata said. "We want an Origin game as soon as possible.

"Todd Greenberg has said New Zealand is potentially a viable option and it's about getting some dialogue moving between ourselves, Auckland Council and the NRL. We already have a good working relationship with the NRL through the nines tournament.

"Origin really resonates with Kiwis. It's a market which understands the significance of State of Origin."

The only Origin held on foreign soil was an exhibition game in California in 1987.

"Next year there are two games in Queensland and in 2018 contractually we are committed to one game in Melbourne and we will see what happens after that," ARL Commission chairman John Grant said.

- Sunday Telegraph

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