The Rugby League State of Origin came to Melbourne last night. It was the decider of the annual three-match series. 1997 was the only other time one of these matches have been played outside of Queensland or NSW.
In neutral Victoria, there were enough fans to fill out the Telstra Dome with a capacity crowd of nearly 55,000 people. It would be interesting to know how many people were locals and how many came from interstate. Judging from the confused commuters on the tram on the way to the ground I would say that many people came from up north.
There was passion in the crowd – something that has been missing from my recent visits to the Telstra Dome for Rugby Union and AFL games. There seemed to be more Queenslanders but maybe it is because of the Victorians in the crowd side against their traditional rivals of NSW (like myself!).
It was the Queensland supporters who were the happy ones after the Maroons came back in the last ten minutes to win 16-14, an exciting finish to the game.
In the AFL stronghold of Victoria, there has been a recent assault by Rugby League and Soccer to win over support, but I think the AFL can rest easy as a 100-year-old tradition of sport is hard to break, and in this sporting mad state there is enough room for more than one sport.