This story appeared first on NRL.com
By Will Botoulas
You can officially start the countdown rugby league fans – the first dose of Origin fever has just been served.
With 72 days until Australia's biggest rivals resume hostilities, the NRL launched the 2015 State of Origin Series on Tuesday at the summit of Melbourne's Eureka Tower.
The series will be played across three cities this year, with the Melbourne Cricket Ground hosting Game Two on June 17 as the event makes its first return to the iconic venue since 1997.
Speaking alongside rival skipper Paul Gallen, Queensland captain Cameron Smith revealed the occasion will hold a special significance for himself, having long harboured a desire to grace the hallowed MCG turf.
"It would be a privilege really to play on a ground with so much history," Smith said.
"I'd love to just get five or 10 minutes on the ground and now that we've been given the opportunity to play a State of Origin match it's pretty special. I've been fortunate to watch a few big sporting events there but they don't get much bigger than State of Origin.
"I know first hand the Victorians really love rugby league, they love the physicality of the game. We are talking about a place that can hold more than 100,000 people and there is no place like it, it is an amazing atmosphere."
Melbourne last hosted a State of Origin game back in 2012 at Docklands Stadium and Victorians have had a habit of turning up in their droves for the NRL showpiece.
The seven Origin games that have been played in the southern state have attracted an average attendance of 50,418 people.
That number certainly stacks up with Sydney Origin crowds of 55,000 and eclipses their counterparts further north with 39,695.
Despite Origin II being three months away, around 50,000 tickets have already been sold meaning there is every chance the MCG's 100,000-plus capacity will be put to the test.
"We hope to get the fans behind it, all the folk from Melbourne will be behind it, they love their elite sport and we will be looking to get the biggest crowd we possibly can," NRL CEO Dave Smith said.
"What you've seen over the last couple of years is that we've been demonstrating we are prepared to take the game more widely. We launched the season in Auckland, this year we are in Melbourne for Origin. I think we are demonstrating that our audience is significant across the country.
"We want to take the game to more people and more people want to watch it."
Tickets for Game Three at Suncorp Stadium on July 8 also went on sale on Tuesday with fans encouraged to get in early as the Maroons aim to regain the shield that was once perennially theirs.