XXXX Queensland Maroons coach Mal Meninga says the opportunity to soak up the magical Melbourne Cricket Ground atmosphere will be one of the highlights of the 2015 State of Origin series.
“I’m hoping from a Queensland point of view that our support far outweighs what the Blues have, which has happened previously in Melbourne,” Meninga told QRL.com.au
“It’s important for rugby league to keep on making its mark in Victoria. We’ve always said that AFL is the number one sport down there and we’re never going to take over from it.
“But we want to keep it all bubbling along; the Storm are well entrenched in Melbourne and the players are pretty popular, so I’m sure taking the game to the MCG will result in a massive crowd.”
The June 17 MCG clash is Game 2 of this year’s series, meaning it will be make or break for one desperate team.
“Melbourne will be a very influential game as far as the series is concerned,” Meninga said.
“Obviously we go to Sydney first and whoever wins that sets up the series. Melbourne will be critical to both sides, regardless of whether someone goes in one up, or one down.”
The record-breaking Maroons coach is no stranger to the MCG, having played at the iconic ground in 1994 when more than 87,161 fans watched the Blues record a 14-0 win over a Queensland team that included household names Allan Langer, Trevor Gillmeister, Gary Larson and Billy Moore.
“In those days there was no Melbourne Storm and there was not a lot of rugby league down there, so it was one of those games that wasn’t quite Origin like,” Meninga recalled.
“But I’m sure now with the success of the Storm, having been down there a couple more times (for Origin matches) and seeing how well the game is followed, it will be a fantastic atmosphere.
“People tell me how special the AFL grand final is and talk about their crowds at local derbies, so I’m looking forward to feeling and witnessing that type of atmosphere.”
Game 2 of the 1995 Origin series and the second match in 1997 were also played at the MCG.
Melbourne last hosted a State of Origin game at a sold-out Etihad Stadium in 2012 when Queensland beat the Blues 18-10.
Have you purchased your ticket to Game 3 at Suncorp Stadium yet?