NEWCASTLE has lost the third State of Origin match to Gold Coast after the NSW government refused to allow the event to go ahead with a crowd on Wednesday evening.
In a massive blow to rugby league fans in the Hunter, the NRL released a statement on Saturday night confirming the match had been transferred to the Gold Coast.
It said the Australian Rugby League commission had been advised by the NSW state government that the match at McDonald Jones Stadium could not go ahead with a crowd given the worsening COVID situation in Sydney in recent days.
There are have been no positive tests recorded in Newcastle or the Hunter since the latest Sydney outbreak began - and the last positive test in the region was almost 12 months ago.
The NRL said the government had acted to ensure the outbreak did not spread to regional NSW.
It will be the first time Gold Coast has hosted an Origin match and will mean all three matches will have been played in Queensland. NSW has already won the series.
"We are disappointed not to be able to give Newcastle the city's first State of Origin but we must operate within all state public health orders and not having a crowd in Newcastle negates the opportunity for our fans from the region," NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.
Knights legends Paul Harragon, Danny Buderus and Kurt Gidley all backed the campaign to play the match in Newcastle, as did the eighth Immortal Andrew Johns.
ARLC chairman Peter V'landys expressed his belief the match should be played in Newcastle. Deputy Premier John Barilaro was also in support of bringing the match to town.
In announcing the match would be played in Newcaslte, Abdo said it was a reward for fans in the Hunter.
"These fans are among the most passionate fans in our game. They turn out and support the Knights every week and we are excited to bring Ampol State of Origin to Newcastle," he said.
The crowd at Newcastle had been capped at 75 per cent of capacity.
People from Greater Sydney, the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour would have been banned from attending the Origin match, which was shifted from Stadium Australia to Broadmeadow this week.
Police warned they would be checking ID of those attending the match.
An online petition to stop the match going ahead had attracted several thousand supporters.
IN THE NEWS:
- Newcastle's COVID-19 vaccination hub at Belmont opens July 19, Hunter New England Health
- Serial sex offender and former Newcastle musician Daniel "Jimmy" Hanson hears the impacts of his many crimes
- NSW COVID-19 restrictions tighten on exercise, funerals as numbers rise
- Teenage activists welcome Vickery coal decision but Minerals Council of Australia shrugs it off
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: