The NRL has pushed out its crowd projection for State of Origin I at the Melbourne Cricket Ground to more than 85,000, opening up standing sections to accomodate the interest south of the border.
The MCG's total capacity comes in at just over 100,000 with the final 5,000 of that figure reached through standing room usually reserved for AFL finals time.
Number up: Opposition captains Greg Inglis and Boyd Cordner at the MCG.
Estimates don't quite live up to the record Origin attendance when 91,513 flocked to the hallowed ground for 2015's game two, but it represents a marked increase on early reports of low interest.
There are often concerns that Victorian fans simply aren't interested in rugby league when Origin is coming to town, but with only around 25,000 attendees coming from interstate the NRL believes the sport and its flagship contest has some traction in the AFL-dominant market.
The NRL has made the decision to open up standing terraces to accomodate bigger groups that have left it late, or those put off by the restricted view options on offer as more and more tickets are sold.
"We wouldn't always [open standing sections] but it comes down to the fact that a lot of the seats left would be single seats – not very good if you want to go with family and friends," an NRL spokesperson said.
The Victorian Government signed a seven-year deal with the NRL earlier this year to guarantee two further State of Origin matches, as well as two Test matches and an All Stars match.
Melbourne isn't the only destination, with the NRL taking its flagship contest all over the country – a match in Perth beckons next year, followed by Adelaide and Melbourne again in 2021 and 2025.
“State of Origin is the biggest sporting rivalry in the country and it will be great to further set in stone the schedule over the next period with two more matches in Melbourne," NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said at the time of the announcement.
“The Rugby League World Cup showed there is real passion for international Rugby League across the country."
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