With the Greater Sydney region’s COVID-19 lockdown extended another week, the third Ampol State of Origin match has been switched to Newcastle.
Next Wednesday’s game has been transferred from Stadium Australia to McDonald Jones Stadium, which will become the second regional venue to host an Origin match after Townsville was the venue for the series opener.
The match will be played in front of up to 20,000 fans or 75% of seated capacity. Fans located in Greater Sydney, including the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour will not be permitted to purchase tickets.
Queensland will be playing for pride after suffering heavy defeats in the first two matches, while the Blues will be amped up to complete a clean sweep for the first time since 2000.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the game would create history in Newcastle hosting the series for the first time in the Origin era.
“This is a reward for the people of Newcastle and Hunter region,” he said.
“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.
“One of the positives to come from the pandemic has been the opportunity to give passionate rugby league communities like Newcastle and Townsville the chance to host Origin when they otherwise wouldn’t.”
Abdo thanked the NSW Government for their ongoing support of rugby league and said Newcastle represented a safe option that would ensure the continuity of the series.
“There’s currently no community transmission in Newcastle and it represents a safe option for both our players and the community. We will continue to follow all NSW Public Health orders for the game.
“I would like to thank both state teams for their patience in allowing us to secure a safe venue with the capability of a passionate crowd.”
The Blues have made a few injury-enforced changes with Dale Finucane is set to start at prop for the Blues with Payne Haas on the bench in the reshuffle forced by Daniel Saifiti’s withdrawal on Monday due to a rib injury.
Mitch Moses and Jack Wighton are the new halves with Jarome Luai and Nathan Cleary.
Queensland will unleash teenage speedster Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow after coach Paul Green opted to look to the future ahead of the State of Origin game three dead rubber.
Tabuai-Fidow has been named to make his Origin debut for the July 14 clash in a re-jigged backline that welcomes the return of Newcastle X-factor Kalyn Ponga from a groin injury that sidelined him for the two first games.
Titans wrecking ball David Fifita will miss the game after he was found guilty of dangerous contact at the NRL judiciary on Tuesday night.