The NSW Blues have been given a welcome boost for next year's State of Origin series after it was confirmed the MCG would host Game II of the 2024 series. The Blues - having lost three of the last four series - will host the opening State of Origin match at Sydney's Accor Stadium on June 5.
Melbourne's iconic MCG will then play host to the second game on June 26, before Suncorp Stadium hosts a potential series decider on July 17. However, Queensland's record at the MCG does not bode well for the Maroons prospects, with the side only winning one of their previous five Origin matches at the iconic Melbourne venue.
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It's a grim statistic for the Maroons, who always relish going into an Origin series as underdogs, with their last win at the MCG coming way back in 1995. The Blues have since won three straight Origin clashes at the MCG, with their last victory coming in Game I in 2018 - a 22-12 victory in former coach Brad Fittler's first game in charge.
Fittler won't be at the helm in 2024 after turning down an extension to remain Blues mentor, with New Zealand coach Michael Maguire expected to be appointed his successor after reportedly being offered the role by the NSWRL. Maguire is also an assistant coach at the Canberra Raiders and could feasibly have to juggle three jobs at once if he takes on the Blues role.
The NRL's decision to take Origin back to Melbourne makes sense from a commercial point of view, with a league record 91,513 packing the MCG to watch Blues defeat the Maroons in 2015. More than 87,000 fans attended the fixture three years later, and NRL CEO Andrew Abdo is confident there will once again be tremendous interest in the Melbourne spectacle, with tickets already on sale.
“State of Origin has had some amazing moments in Melbourne, from the first game held at the MCG in 1994 right up until the last game in 2018,” NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said. “State of Origin is the biggest rivalry in Australian sport and to be able to play at the iconic MCG is a great opportunity for fans as we all eagerly await another captivating series in 2024.”
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However, league fans are divided over news the MCG will host Game II of the series. Sydney hosted Game III this year so it makes sense that a potential decider next year would be held at Suncorp Stadium.
It does lead to the possibility that Suncorp Stadium hosts a dead rubber Game III in 2024, and if the Maroons are on the wrong side of the ledger it would be a disaster for Queensland supporters. Plenty of fans have argued that the neutral venue should host Game III so at least both teams get a chance to play one game at home, before the series result is potentially decided.
Total of Game 3's and it's host state
NSW x 14
QLD have hosted Game Three in 9 of the last 13 series since 2011
— BackToBack (@EastsToWin1994) November 9, 2023
Don’t know why they’re complaining. Melbourne is basically 2 home games for QLD. A lot more QLD support there than NSW.
— Jake Michael Thompson (@JMThompson95) November 9, 2023
Qld aren’t happy they have to do exactly the same thing we did this year. suck it up tools.
In saying that, for the years that there is a neutral venue, it should be game 3. Not fair that a team could lose the series and not even played at home yet.
— Ben Darkin (@Benny_D82) November 9, 2023
Who said we aren't happy? I for one cannot WAIT till we beat NSW in game one and either bring it to Suncorp for the decider (and win) or to win the sweep.
— Mark (@woolworthsslave) November 9, 2023
What’s the point of trying to woo Victorians when their state is not playing
— redline777 (@terriblebelief) November 9, 2023
Michael Maguire tipped to take over as NSW coach
The Blues will likely go into the series with Maguire at the helm, although the coach's future was expected to be decided this week. The Daily Telegraph's David Riccio revealed on Tuesday that Maguire was expected to be rubber-stamped as Blues coach upon his return from New Zealand, where he steered the Kiwis to a record-breaking victory over the Kangaroos.
The league reporter suggested the NZRL could ultimately let Maguire go as Kiwis coach if he took the Blues role, but the record 30-0 thumping of the Kangaroos in the final of the Pacific Championships has reportedly changed their thinking. It's understood the sticking point between Maguire and the NSWRL is the one-year deal reportedly being offered to the former Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers coach, who is pushing for a two-year deal.
Riccio told SEN 1170 Breakfast that is was an "unprecedented" move by Maguire to try and juggle an international coaching role with a State of Origin position. “As far as retaining both positions, that’s the great debate, (it’s) unprecedented,” he said.
“We have not had the head coach of a State of Origin side also remain as an international Test coach, that is what Michael Maguire will attempt. NZRL are yet to ratify that from their point of view, they weren’t over the moon that this story broke on the eve of the Pacific Championships. Time will tell whether they retain Michael Maguire as the head coach of the Kiwis.”
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