‘Forgotten city’: Why Origin will take Adelaide by storm
IT took just one game at the famed Adelaide Oval for Kerrod Walters to believe that rugby league had a future in South Australia.
The NRL announced on Wednesday that Adelaide would be host to a State of Origin match for the first time in 2020 with the iconic Adelaide Oval to be the venue for either game one or game two of the series.
The announcement comes 20 years after the Rams' two-year tenure in Australia's elite rugby league competition came to a close in the wake of the Super League war that saw Adelaide and Gold Coast kicked out of the merged NRL competition in 1999.
Reintroducing an Adelaide team doesn't appear to be on the agenda of the NRL in the foreseeable future but Walters, the Rams' inaugural captain, told foxsports.com.au that they achieved enough in the space of two years to suggest they should have persisted.
"Our first home game was a sellout and we played the Hunter Mariners and we actually won," Walters recalled of their 10-8 win in front of a crowd of 27,435 in 1997.
"It was one of the more memorable atmospheres I ever played in.
"The crowd was going off and I thought, 'This could really work here.'
"After the game and after the win they embraced the Rams and I thought that this team could take a hold and that it could work here.
"The first year playing at the Adelaide Oval we averaged crowds of 16,000 which was more than a lot of the Sydney clubs at the time.
"People didn't know much about the game or who the Rams were but by the end of year two people who follow sport knew who the Rams were.
"That's why I was disappointed they didn't get an opportunity to fulfil their destiny."
Such was Walters' belief in the future of rugby league in the City of Churches that after originally signing to play two years overseas he had hoped to return to the Rams in a coaching capacity.
"Adelaide were embracing rugby league and I think there were a lot of disappointed supporters when the Rams folded," said Walters, who with 41 appearances may forever hold the record for the most games for the Adelaide Rams.
"I really felt that Adelaide could be a place to grow the game and a place where it could flourish.
"A lot of people talk about Perth getting a team but I think Adelaide is the forgotten city in regards to that.
"Obviously they're AFL mad down there with the support of the Crows and Port Adelaide but they still love their sport.
"I remember playing a charity tennis match down there and I couldn't believe the number of people that turned up just to watch a few blokes play tennis.
"I soon learned that Adelaide people love their sport just as move as Melbourne people.
"There's every chance that Adelaide could have gone on and perhaps not had quite the success that Melbourne has had but they certainly would have been a competitive franchise with good support."
Given his ties to the Rams Walters welcomed the news of an Origin fixture to be played in Adelaide for the first time and believes for the game to grow one game of every series should be played in a new market.
"I reckon they should have a game in Sydney, a game in Brisbane and rotate the games between Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth over a three-year period," said Walters, who twice played for Queensland in Origin matches in Melbourne.
"Take the game to other markets and see if we can get teams in Perth and Adelaide in the years to come.
"I know people in Queensland want two games at Suncorp but at the end of the day only 52,000 can go to the game, the majority of Queensland-loving supporters watch it on TV anyway.
"I think we've got to be unselfish and take the game to another market and try and showcase our greatest attributes."