Newcastle’s worst kept secret is out – State of Origin Game III will be played at McDonald Jones Stadium for the first time next week, shifting from Sydney as the city continues to battle a COVID outbreak.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian extended the lockdown by another seven days – it will now end on Friday July 16.

The stadium will be at 75 per cent capacity, ensuring a crowd of up to 20,000 people.

Fans from Greater Sydney – including Central Coast, Blue Mountains and Wollongong – will not be allowed to attend.

Tickets will go on sale on Monday.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said the game would create history in Newcastle hosting the series for the first time in the Origin era.

“This is a reward for the people of Newcastle and Hunter region,” he said.

“These fans are among the most passionate fans in our game. They turn out and support the Knights every week and we are excited to bring Ampol State of Origin to Newcastle.

“One of the positives to come from the pandemic has been the opportunity to give passionate rugby league communities like Newcastle and Townsville the chance to host Origin when they otherwise wouldn’t.”

It will be a particularly special game for Newcastle Knights players Kalyn Ponga and Kurt Mann who’ve been selected in the Maroons side.

Daniel Saifiti will miss out due to rib injury but it’s hoped his Blues will get their first series whitewash since 2000.

Meanwhile, Friday’s NRL game between South Sydney and North Queensland has also been shifted from Homebush to Newcastle.