‘Project Artie’ on track to deliver Origin to Queensland
The NRL's Project Apollo team is ready to deliver a State of Origin game to Queensland under high-level plans to celebrate the 40-year legacy of Maroons Immortal Arthur Beetson.
The Sunday Mail can reveal 'Project Artie' is underway with the Queensland Rugby League having held talks with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to push for an Origin game to be played at Suncorp Stadium this season.
And the move has the backing of ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys, who is working on a schedule that has provisions for one Origin game at Queensland's home of rugby league this year.
State of Origin is due to celebrate its 40th anniversary this season. Game Three at Suncorp Stadium was pencilled in for July 8 - the very day Beetson famously led the Queensland side onto Lang Park in the inaugural Origin clash in 1980.
The coronavirus pandemic has thrown the QRL's planned celebrations into disarray and there are fears Queensland's strict border controls could see all three Origin games played in NSW as a contingency.
But V'landys told The Sunday Mail he is determined to reward fans with an Origin clash on Beetson's Queensland soil, especially if a mooted series in October provides scope for a full-house at Suncorp.
"Under our plan, I think we will have an Origin game in Queensland," V'landys said.
"Artie Beetson was a legend of the game so it would be great to celebrate an Origin game up there.
"When we can show the (Queensland) Premier there is no risk and there are no biosecurity concerns, I'm sure we can all be on the same page on State of Origin."
Asked about whether Origin would be played in October, V'landys said: "I can't comment on Origin in October. That's one of the discussions points with broadcasters and we have all agreed to remain confidential until we have an agreement.
"I think that we can do Origin in a way where we lose no impact. There are some ideas to counteract no crowds at Origin."
Beetson, Australia's first Indigenous captain, skippered the Maroons onto Lang Park at age 35 on July 8, 1980, inspiring the 20-10 defeat of NSW that planted the seed for an epic Origin rivalry.
Queensland Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher spoke with Premier Palaszczuk on Wednesday and hopes Beetson is honoured this season with a Suncorp Origin clash.
"I've had a chat with the Premier and it was a very sensible discussion," he said.
"I totally respect the Premier's right to call the shots, she has an enormous responsibility to lead us through this crisis.
"The Premier took the courtesy to explain her position on State of Origin. She loves the game and doesn't want to have a game where we have no crowds and the event is a disaster.
"This is the 40th year of Origin and we have really big plans to promote the anniversary of Artie Beetson leading Queensland onto Lang Park in 1980.
V'landys will meet with Queensland premier Palaszczuk in the next fortnight in a move to open the Sunshine State's borders to the NRL.
The Queensland government has put out the welcome mat to rugby league in one of the most significant steps to overcoming COVID-19 border restrictions to revive the NRL competition on May 28.
Premier Palaszczuk caused a storm during the week when she claimed Queensland had no hope of hosting State of Origin this season, a scenario that also appeared to deliver a hammer blow to the resumption of the NRL.
But The Sunday Mail can reveal the Queensland government is open to a proposal from the NRL - and V'landys has vowed to table a carefully-considered plan to allow rugby league's Project Apollo mission to take off.
"We will approach the Queensland government in the coming weeks to seek a resolution," V'landys said.
"I greatly respect the Premier and I will talk to the Queensland government in due course.
"I'm still confident we can come to a resolution. I'm always confident that good leaders have open minds and aren't one dimensional if there is a sound argument."
Originally published as 'Project Artie' on track to deliver Origin to Queensland