NRL CEO Todd Greenberg predicted the inaugural Holden Women’s State of Origin clash in Queensland would be a sellout at Sunshine Coast Stadium after touring the facility on Monday.
Greenberg, Sunshine Coast Council mayor Mark Jamieson and Maroons stars Karina Brown and Annette Brander took a tour of the 12,000 capacity venue which will host the Queensland v NSW showdown on Friday, June 19. Tickets will go on sale early next year.
Greenberg said it was "a big decision" to move the game from North Sydney Oval and the Sunshine Coast fulfilled the key criteria of making sure the game was played in rugby league heartland and that it was at the right sized venue where the game could grow the State of Origin concept for female athletes.
"We made the right decision to play it in Sydney at North Sydney and ultimately we grew out of that in the second year and we hope the same problem will eventuate here," Greenberg said
"We will certainly get through the first year and ultimately consider what it looks like in 2021. The other component on our calendar is how we can grow the Women’s State of Origin game and can we make it two and ultimately three games.
"We will go slowly and strategically and listen to our female athletes about workloads and balance."
Brown captained the Maroons in the inaugural Origin clash in 2018 and wants to be part of a historic moment.
"I will be doing everything I can to make sure I am in the final selected team to run out at Sunshine Coast Stadium in June next year because it is such a special feeling every time you get to pull on the jersey, but to do it for the first time ever in State of Origin in Queensland in front of a very passionate crowd is everything I want to be part of," she said.
Brown was a member of the team in Queensland’s extraordinary run in the interstate series which stretched for 16 consecutive wins and a draw before NSW won in 2016. NSW have won the past four clashes, two of which doubled as Origin clashes.
"The last few years all you can hear is the chant ‘NSW, NSW’ and they have come home in the dying minutes really to snatch two victories. After four in a row we are absolutely looking to bring that trophy back home," she said.
"If it is not now it is never so it has got to be next year in June in front of our own crowd and I think we will definitely be doing that."
Brander has just capped a stellar year where she represented the Maroons and Jillaroos and won the NRLW with the Broncos.
The rugged forward played with the Beerwah Bulldogs on the Sunshine Coast so next year’s Origin fixture before will be an emotional return to the stadium.
"I’m really excited. Hopefully we will see a sea of maroon here next year," she said.
"When I was playing for the Beerwah Bulldogs we got to have a game down here and I played for the Sunshine Coast 47th Battalion here as well. The crowd really gets involved.
"I grew up playing tennis and never really was that into rugby league. As soon as I started playing I fell in love with the sport.
"I didn’t really have big aspirations until I started making a couple of local teams. I never thought I would make it this far and now that I have it is really exciting and good for the girls coming through to see that you can play locally on the Sunshine Coast and still amount to something more in the game."
Greenberg said the Sunshine Coast Council had been a massive support of the event which was a key factor in securing the event in a growth area for rugby league.
Next year the stadium will also host the Cowboys v Sharks and Rabbitohs v Warriors in two NRL fixtures after a sell-out crowd watched the Rabbitohs play the Warriors in the inaugural NRL clash at Sunshine Coast Stadium this year.
"It is very strong here in grassroots – in tag, tackle and touch football – so our numbers here are very strong," Greenberg said.
"We are very mindful that when you have strong growth markets – particularly where kids are playing, both boys and girls – we want to bring their idols to town so they have the opportunity to meet their heroes."