By Paul Hayes

SYDNEY, NSW: State of Origin rugby is set to become the first sport in Australia to be shot in 3D, with Channel Nine last night announcing plans to show this year’s series using the latest technology.

But the extra dimension will not be available to everyone, with only New South Wales viewers who already own 3D TVs able to take advantage of what is being hailed as the world’s first free-to-air 3D sporting broadcast.

Given the first range of 3D TVs has only been available in Australia for little over a week, most people will miss out on the home viewing aspect, but they will be able to watch the games in some cinemas and also possibly in selected Harvey Norman stores. Nine CEO David Gyngell said this broadcast would be part of a TV revolution.

“It’s early days of course because the technology is still developing, and its availability to consumers right now is limited. But 3D is about to arrive with a bang across the world, and the Nine Network and Harvey Norman want to pioneer the revolution in Australia,” said Gyngell.

Harvey Norman is a major sponsor of the State of Origin and, along with all of Australia’s major retailers, is expecting a significant sales boost with the proliferation of 3D TV.

“This is the most exciting television viewing experience I’ve ever seen. Entertainment in the home is about to take a huge leap forward," said Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey.

NRL CEO David Gallop was also happy with the news.

“3DTV is a really exciting opportunity for rugby league fans," he said. "It will bring a new level of the toughness, excitement, speed and skill of rugby league into the homes of viewers through one of our game’s showcase series.”

Samsung’s first 3D TV range is already available on the Australian market, with Panasonic set to release in June, followed by Sony in July.

With the first Origin match set to air on 26 May, the timing is also important because it narrowly beats the other major 3D sports attraction, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, which kicks off in early June.

Sony, a major sponsor of the World Cup, has announced that 25 FIFA matches will be filmed in 3D.