Harvey Norman Queensland Maroons coach Tahnee Norris is ready to write yet another chapter into the history books for women’s rugby league, following the NRL’s announcement of a three-game State of Origin series.
With next year's series opener to be played at Suncorp Stadium as part of the annual NRL Magic Round, it was announced on Monday that the reigning champions will also enjoy a second match on home turf, with the third game of the 2024 series to be played at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
Game II of the series will then be held at Newcastle’s McDonald Jones Stadium where the record for crowd attendance at an NRLW standalone match was set earlier this year, after more than 12,600 fans turned out for the Newcastle Knights and Brisbane Broncos semi-final in September.
Calls for a three-game women’s State of Origin series have been growing over recent years and intensified earlier this season after Queensland claimed the first two-game series.
Now as they prepare to defend their title, Norris said it was the right move.
“It’s what the game needed to do,” Norris said.
“It’s really important for us to continue the growth of the game and give the girls what they deserve.
“Having that extra game in there - another standalone - it’s really exciting to showcase how good our girls are. The crowd showed in Townsville for that second game (this year) that it’s just getting bigger and bigger.
“That second game in Newcastle (next year), that’s going to be fantastic in itself. We saw the crowd they got for the NRLW semi-finals so I can’t wait.
“It’s so good that the three venues they’re going to be playing at are fantastic football areas.”
The NRL handed the Maroons the home ground advantage for next year given they currently hold the shield.
Norris – heading into her fourth year as Maroons coach – said it was something her and the team would not “take lightly”.
“We have to make the most of all of that, especially the fact the first one is at Suncorp,” Norris said.
“We have to do the work and make sure we’re fully prepared because it is earlier in the season as well. We have to make sure the girls are ready to go and set the standards from game one.
“It’s the Cauldron. It’s going to be a really special feeling. It’s officially the first time ever to do this (under the State of Origin banner) and the fact that it’s a standalone... We know the atmosphere Suncorp can create and what it can give the home team.
“We’re hoping the crowd and fans get behind it. The girls will absolutely love the fact they’re playing there and will be in awe of how good a stadium it actually is and what that stadium means to Queenslanders.”
This is the first time under the official banner that a women’s State of Origin has been played at Suncorp Stadium.
However, Queenslanders of the past have had the honour of running out at the Cauldron before, including Norris who played in the 2006 women’s interstate challenge as part of a double header with a Brisbane Broncos NRL match and in 2011 ahead of men’s Origin.
Norris said she expected the crowds to be bigger and the atmosphere to be even better, especially as part of the spectacle that is Magic Round.
“I remember playing in Origin there and it was a double header with the men’s and the fact it’s a standalone at Suncorp, it’s huge for the girls and a great opportunity to showcase the women’s game,” she said.
“When we first started playing, the crowd were just making their way in. There wasn’t too many there at the start but I remember at halftime going, ‘oh my god.’ It was huge.
“It was nearly packed by the time we finished our game. It was just listening to the fans and the vibe from the crowd, you couldn’t hear each other on the field itself. It was an amazing feeling.
“Magic Round, it is a carnival-type feel around Brisbane that week so fans will be there, for sure. The extra night, the Thursday night, they get to watch an Origin game so why wouldn’t they put themselves at the game?”
As well as the series opener being played at Suncorp Stadium, next year’s series will return to Townsville where a record women’s State of Origin crowd was set in Game II of 2023, with more than 18,000 in attendance.
Queenslanders will now have two chances to break that record and Norris is calling on all fans to throw their support behind the women as they fight to defend the shield.
“Get out there, Queenslanders,” Norris said.
“The girls love seeing you there and we want to see you there.”
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Women's State of Origin series
- Game I, Suncorp Stadium, Thursday May 16
- Game II, McDonald Jones Stadium, Thursday June 6
- Game III, Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Thursday June 27