It was a fast and furious start to the first-ever State of Origin match played in Townsville, with tens of thousands descending on the North Queensland city.
New South Wales drew first blood in the series with a penalty kick right in front bringing the score to 2-0 after 10 minutes.
Commentator Andrew Johns said it was the ‘fasted opening six minutes to a game’ he’s ever seen.
Despite the electric atmosphere, the jovial occasion has been slightly tempered after it was revealed a positive Covid case was recorded in state earlier today.
The New South Wales Blues will head into the first game of the series as the firm betting favorites with many of Queensland’s key players under an injury cloud.
But with a hostile capacity crowd of 30,000 on hand at Country Bank Stadium, Queensland fans are hoping it will be enough to see the Cain Toads seal the win.
Maroons legend Gorden Tallis, who is at the game for Fox Sports, said Townsville had become the epicenter of rugby league for the night.
‘It is bigger than the Olympics,’ he said, highlighting how the Tokyo games will be devoid of spectators.
‘It is like a zoo, everyone is smiling.
‘I said don’t worry about Covid. We will drink that away’.
Tens of thousands of passionate Rugby league fans have descended Townsville for the first match of the 2021 State of Origin series
It is the first-ever State of Origin match to be held in the North Queensland city
A brave Blues fan is pictured making his way to Country Bank Stadium for the first State of Origin clash
The first casualty of the game was hard-running Queensland front rower Christian Welch who had a sickening head clash with NSW winger Brian To’o in the 12th minute.
Queensland Health confirmed on Wednesday that a woman who left Melbourne while it was in lockdown and went on a road trip tested positive for coronavirus
The 44-year-old woman from Caloundra on the Sunshine Coast was tested on Tuesday and returned a positive result on Wednesday.
Despite the initial fears, the iconic rugby league fixture will go ahead as scheduled with no restrictions on crowd numbers.
The origin match was originally supposed to be in Melbourne, but the city’s explosion of Covid cases last month caused organisers to move the contest at the last minute.
Canberra, Newcastle and Bankwest Stadium in Sydney were all under consideration as potential alternatives.
But Townsville were controversially granted hosting duties after the Annastacia Palaszczuk government shelled out $8million to the NRL.
Lisa Origliasso and Jessica Origliasso of The Veronicas (pictured perform before game one of the 2021 State of Origin in Townsville
A passionate Queensland fan knocks back a beer before the iconic rugby league clash
Pictured: Boys in blue get set for the first-ever State of Origin clash in Townsville
While the decision was largely met with anger south of the border and means the first two games of the three-match series will be held in Queensland, some die-hard Blues say the warm conditions and dry track should favor the Cockroaches fast-footed side.
NSW 18-man squad features six Penrith Panthers players including Nathan Cleary and Isaah Yeo
But four others – Brian To’o, Jarome Luai, Liam Martin and Apisai Koroisau will all be making their debut for the state.
When it comes to the Queensland squad, several players are believed to be carrying injuries.
Playmaker Cameron Munster is carrying a foot injury that put him in doubt for game, while hooker Harry Grant has been plagued by a hamstring strain and has only managed a handful of matches this season.
Outside back Dane Gagai, who remains a key try-scoring threat had to be hospitalised this week with tonsillitis.
But despite the injury concerns all three superstar Queenslanders are expected to play the full 80 minutes.
Townsville were controversially granted hosting duties after the Annastacia Palaszczuk (pictured centre) government shelled out $8million to the NRL
A die-hard Maroons snaps a photo with the statue of Queensland legend Johnathan Thurston
A Queensland family don face paint as they get set for the start of the 2021 Origin series