E. J. “Ted” Whitten, a former Footscray Football Club player who died of prostate cancer in 1995, was regarded as one of the greatest ever players of the game. He was also passionate about State of Origin football. With his enthusiasm and ability to keep in the media spotlight, Ted had kept State of Origin going for many years, and his emotional farewell at the Victoria vs South Australia game at the MCG in 1995 will long be remembered as a symbol of State of Origin passion. Shortly after his death, the concept was brought into question and the last such game was played in 1999.
When he died, his son, Ted Jnr, launched a foundation for research into prostate cancer, and the Legends Game raises money for the foundation. So far, more than $750,000 has been raised for the E. J. Whitten Foundation.
The first ever Legends Match was played at the Western Oval, home of the Footscray/Western Bulldogs, EJ Whitten’s club. Most of the games have been televised free-to-air in Victoria and South Australia. Due to popularity of the event, later games were moved to bigger venues. And since 2003 the game has been held at Etihad Stadium (formerly known as Telstra Dome).
In February 2016 it was announced that the Seven Network had secured the rights to televise this match for the next five years; in addition, the match was moved to the football-free weekend between the final round of the premiership season and the first week of the finals series.
In 2018, the match was played at Adelaide Oval. This was the first game played in Adelaide since 1999.
In 2019, the match will be contested under the AFLX format and played at AAMI Park in Melbourne.