Melbourne NRL captain Cameron Smith has long dreamed of his 15 minutes of fame playing on the hallowed MCG turf.
The Test and Maroons skipper’s dream is set to come true with State of Origin returning to the famed colosseum for game two next year as well as a match in 2018.
Origin was last played at the MCG in 1997 with subsequent Melbourne games played at Etihad Stadium.
Smith said he didn’t think he would ever get the chance to play at the iconic venue.
“I’ve been to four AFL grand finals as a spectator and I can’t imagine being down on the ground when it’s at near capacity.
“I’ve always said I’d love to run out on the ground for 15 minutes but, hopefully, next year I will get the full 80.
“I was thinking as an AFL player but, now that I get to play my own code, it’s even better.”
NSW and Queensland graced the MCG three times during the ’90s, with the inaugural 1994 game attracting 87,161 spectators.
The Storm stalwart predicted the figure would match that next year.
“It’s been almost 10 years and the sport is more popular than ever, particularly Origin, so I would hope we’d get 95,000,” he said.
His club teammate Ryan Hoffman, a member of the triumphant NSW team in game one last week, said the only comparison he could make was playing at Wembley.
Hoffman was a part of the Wigan team who beat Leeds there in front of almost 80,000 in the 2011 Challenge Cup final.
He believed fans from NSW and Queensland who had never been to the MCG would relish the opportunity, while Victorians would also embrace the idea.
“The people of Victoria see the ‘G’ as their house so they will want to come and experience it,” Hoffman said.
“They love their sport and they’ve really jumped on board rugby league.”
The announcement comes at a time when the popularity of the Origin series is at an all-time high.
Last week’s opener was the highest rating show on Australian television this year, with 4.058 million national viewers, making it the most-watched opening game in Origin history.
It attracted the biggest Victorian regional audience for a series opener.
It was also announced on Monday that the Four Nations match between Australia and England on November 2 would be held at Melbourne’s AAMI Park.