NEWCASTLE will get another chance to underline its reputation as a rugby league heartland by posting a record attendance for game two of next year's women's State of Origin series.
McDonald Jones Stadium will host the second of three women's Origins next year on Thursday, June 6, and venue manager Dean Mantle is already predicting a capacity crowd.
"It's going to sell out," Mantle said on Monday. "There's no doubt it will sell out. It's going be a huge event ... it will 100 per cent be a huge crowd."
If that proves to be the case, close to 30,000 will pass through the turnstiles, shattering the existing benchmark for a stand-alone crowd at a women's match, set for the Origin clash in Townsville this year, which drew 18,275.
Mantle said Newcastle's NRLW team, who have won back-to-back premierships, have built "massive support" over the past two seasons, as evidenced by the competition-record 12,689-strong crowd who cheered them to victory in a semi-final against Brisbane in September.
"Numbers like that don't happen by chance," Mantle said.
"The Knights have proven they are an amazing team to watch and Newcastle really got behind them."
Ticket prices have not yet been set but Mantle promised: "I have no doubt it will be accessible for everybody."
A host of Newcastle players are expected to be involved in the marquee fixture, including Jesse and Hannah Southwell, Yasmin Clydsdale and Caitlan Johnston (NSW), and champion fullback Tamika Upton (Queensland).
Clydsdale, a veteran of five Origins and six Tests for Australia, said she was "so excited" about playing an interstate blockbuster in her own backyard.
"It's definitely been a dream of mine to be able to play State of Origin in front of a home crowd," she said.
"I've grown up in Newcastle and Newcastle loves rugby league ... I feel like the community is right behind our Newcastle girls, so to be able to perform at a state level in front of them is going to be pretty special."
Clydsdale was also delighted that the women will finally get to play in a three-match Origin series, after each team won one game this year and Queensland were awarded the title on for-and-against statistics.
"This year was a bit bittersweet," she said.
"Winning that second game, but by not enough points, it really hurt. So to get the three games, and have a proper play-off, I feel like we were all waiting for it."
Clydsdale laughed when it was noted that Newcastle fans might have mixed emotions about crowd favourite Upton appearing in "enemy" colours.
"Tamika is a superstar ... we'll just have to defend her as best we can," she said.
Newcastle has hosted a number of rugby league internationals over the years, but this will be the first Origin encounter, male or female.
McDonald Jones Stadium was chosen as a stopgap venue for Origin III in 2021, but it was eventually moved to the Gold Coast because of COVID-19 restrictions.
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