If you ask Karlo Tychsen, he'll tell you that seeing the NSW Blues lift the State of Origin shield in Newcastle would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The super-fan, known around the Hunter for his ongoing campaign to have a statue of rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns built at McDonald Jones Stadium, believes "it just makes sense" for game three to be moved to Newcastle in light of the COVID-19 outbreak in Sydney, where the fixture is supposed to take place.
Origin III is scheduled for Stadium Australia at Sydney Olympic Park on July 14 - five days after restrictions are expected to be eased in the state capital, barring any extension of the fortnight lockdown.
After Origin I was moved from Melbourne to Townsville earlier this month, talk has now turned to whether the final match of the series should again be taken to a regional location.
"Newcastle is rugby league heartland and if an Origin game during COVID can be moved to Townsville, then it certainly can be moved to Newcastle," Tychsen told the Newcastle Herald yesterday.
"We can host marquee national and international events. It just makes sense no matter what way you look at it.
"Let me tell you this - Knights fans sat through three wooden spoons and had to endure another Origin losing streak.
"The Knights are now on the up, so to welcome a victorious NSW team to our home and see them lift the shield in our own backyard - that's once-in-a-lifetime stuff and local fans of rugby league have earned the right to be a part of it front-and-centre."
The NRL is expected to hold talks today regarding where Origin III should be held.
Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'landys told Triple M radio on Sunday that it was "a very remote chance" that the match would go ahead in Sydney.
"Ideally, hopefully, we could hold it at Newcastle with the 33,000 people. At the moment at Newcastle, it's only a 50 per cent allowance," he said.
"If we were to conduct it at Newcastle we would have to get some commitment from the NSW government for the 33,000."
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Deputy Premier John Barilaro, a vocal supporter of the move to Newcastle, told the Herald yesterday that he would be working closely with NSW Health, City of Newcastle and the NRL to bring Origin III to the Hunter Region.
"The Origin Series started with the Blues demolishing Queensland in Townsville and it is only fitting we watch NSW put the nail in the coffin in Newcastle next month," Mr Barilaro said.
"After NSW pulled out all the stops to make sure rugby league made an early return after COVID struck last year, we owe it to the fans to make sure State of Origin happens in NSW, in Newcastle, in a COVID safe environment.
"All roads for a State of Origin clean sweep lead to Newcastle."
From Matildas international football matches to the A-League grand final and rugby union tests, McDonald Jones Stadium has in the past proven a fitting venue for major events.
Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes said she wrote to Mr Barilaro last week to raise the possibility of Origin III being brought to the Hunter.
"Newcastle and the Hunter is rugby league heartland and so long as the event is COVID-safe we are the perfect location to see the Blues' clean sweep Origin on the GOAT's [greatest of all time] home turf," she said yesterday.
Hunter Business Chamber CEO Bob Hawes said the prospect of the event being staged in Newcastle was "truly exciting" though there was some nervousness about the opportunity - even a limited one - for people from Greater Sydney to attend and potentially cause a health risk.
"I have no doubt the match will be supported if the marketing and attendance is restricted to an audience from local and nearby regional areas," Mr Hawes said.
"An Origin game at McDonald Jones Stadium could for some businesses go a long way to picking up the economic loss they experience in the current period of COVID-related restrictions.
"The economic benefits around major events are well documented and they bring an enormous lift for hospitality, accommodation and transport services as well as the supply chains that support these sectors.
"The region already has a reputation for being able to deliver and host events of this size and nature and I'm sure will rise to this task if called upon."
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