Suncorp Stadium could have empty seats for Origin I. Image: AAP Image/Darren England
Suncorp Stadium could have empty seats for Origin I. Image: AAP Image/Darren England

Queensland, where the bloody hell are you?

PERHAPS Kevin Walters should have promoted who Queensland were playing after all.

Wednesday night's showpiece State of Origin clash at Suncorp Stadium is not a sell-out and is in danger of attracting one of the lowest series-opening crowds in Brisbane.

Unlike Origin II in Perth, where only 750 tickets remain for the first interstate rugby league match at the 60,000-seat Optus Stadium, it is hoped that the smaller Suncorp Stadium (52,400 capacity) will "get close to 50,000" by kick-off time.

Anything under the 2017 game-one crowd figure of 50,300 would make it the smallest attendance for an Origin opener at Suncorp Stadium since 2003.

Perth’s Optus Stadium is almost already sold out. Image: Will Russell/Getty Images
Perth’s Optus Stadium is almost already sold out. Image: Will Russell/Getty Images

 

Queensland Rugby League chief operating officer Rohan Sawyer said Walters' refusal to mention the Maroons' opposition, the NSW Blues, throughout the 10-day build-up had nothing to do with the NRL's inability to sell out the blockbuster.

"Leading into Magic Round (last month) they (ticket sales) were a little bit slow, but the last couple of weeks have been strong and in particular since the team announcement and our launch last Monday, they have had a really good kick-along,'' Sawyer said.

"They're expecting to get to close to 50,000 by kick-off, which is nearly a sell-out of 52,000.

"I just think there are a number of options in the entertainment space that people can spend their money on.

"We always need to be competing for that and the good thing is, we've got the best product.''

 

Maroons fans often leave it late for Origin tickets. Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Maroons fans often leave it late for Origin tickets. Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

 

The promise of empty seats has led to the locals' self-proclaimed passion being questioned in Queensland.

In The Courier Mail on Monday, the headline on page two of sport screamed "Where is the passion for Origin? Perth?"

NRL's chief commercial officer Andrew Abdo said there were a number of factors to consider which influenced the code's ability to sell out the series opener.

 

Blues fans will be there to remind Queensland who holds the shield. Image: AAP Image/Jono Searle
Blues fans will be there to remind Queensland who holds the shield. Image: AAP Image/Jono Searle


"We've sold well over 40,000 tickets,'' Abdo said. "The challenge always is on the night that there are a few uncontrollables.

"Suncorp Stadium has 5000 stadium members and if they don't show up on the night then we don't get the 50,000 number.

"But the seats that we've sold are in line with a crowd of high 40s.

"If the weather is good and the stadium members turn up, we'll get 50,000, which is a great outcome for us.

"We've sold out of corporate seats and we've sold out of the value packages that we put together.

"We always try to keep entry-level prices for families accessible.

"You could buy a family ticket (four people) for $175, but they are now sold out.

"I still think it's an outstanding result to have 50,000 people at Suncorp Stadium for game one.

"In the context of large events, the fact we're going to have 50,000 people there off the back of a wonderful Magic Round is a good result.

"It makes it hard to completely sell out the event. But the fact that we're going to get close to doing it, I don't think there are fundamental issues with the Origin brand or pricing.''