MCG could be half-empty for Origin I
THE NRL is facing the embarrassment of more than 50,000 empty seats for the opening State of Origin game at the MCG on June 6.
Less than two weeks from the kick-off, The Sunday Telegraph can reveal ticket sales have not even reached 20,000 for a venue that has a capacity of 100,000.
Only free-ticket promotions over the next 10 days combined with MCG members and corporate sales will lift the crowd figure to near the 40,000-mark, leaving the highest rating television event of the year with little or no atmosphere.
This compares to the 91,513 who turned up in 2015 for the previous Origin game in Melbourne.
There are a combination of reasons for the poor tickets sales.
For starters, they are not cheap. The better seats with a decent view range from $115 to $290.
The cheapest child ticket to any part of the ground is $40.
The NRL has already agreed to future Origin games in Melbourne in 2021 and 2025.
While it is well compensated by the Victorian government, the poor ticket sales cancel out any real financial gain.
There is a concern the poor, stop-start quality of football this year has had an effect on sales.
Especially as referees' boss Bernard Sutton has already declared the penalty and sin bin crackdown will continue in Origin, a series that became such a magnificent spectacle because of an unwritten law for referees to ignore minor infringements.
On a more positive note, tickets for the stand-alone Sunday game on June 24 at ANZ Stadium are going gangbusters and well ahead of last year's game on a Wednesday night.
Fans obviously prefer the Sunday night schedule with no work or school before the rush to Sydney Olympic Park.