With Rugby League in the midst of Origin fever, Queensland and New South Wales fans are set to pack out ANZ Stadium. But is it time for the AFL to once again go back to State Of Origin.
The last time that Football fans experienced State Of Origin Games was back in 1999 when Victoria defeated South Australia by 54 points in the middle of May in front of over 26,000 people. The AFL did let its guard down in 2008 for the AFL Hall Of Fame Tribute Game. It took months of debate and the question was thrown up on talk back stations around the State, and around the Country. Eventually on the 10th of May 2008 the “Big V” Side captained by Jonathon Brown Took on Andrew McLeod’s “Dream Team” made up of players from the Rest of Australia, in the same way as the Allies back in the early ‘90s.
In 2011 we have State Leagues playing State of Origin Games, yet their National League counterparts are unfortunately missing the boat when it comes to representative football. In a National Sport which hasn’t made it big around the world, State representative football is the pinnacle of our sport.
Our international rules competition with Ireland is a National Side, although the importance of the game is clearly lacking. The game is a hybrid and is offered to a wide range of players, not just the best for that year, or the All Australian team for the year just gone, in short is note just offered to the 20 best players in the League. Some of the best battles in Australian sport have been between states in Australia, NSW and QLD in Rugby League, VIC vs NSW in Cricket and WA vs SA. The General sporting public would rather support a Victorian side than a Melbourne side; it embarks once again on these rivalries and makes every contest watched by more.
State Of Origin would have to be a Victorian based event, in that Victoria would have to play in every match, their opponents… Allies/ Dream Team concept – The “Big V” would play against a side made up of the best players in the league born outside of Victoria. This idea promotes the game as more of a once of game that, as we saw in 2008 would bring 70,000 people through the gates, but wouldn’t demonstrate that State vs State Battle.
Vs. South Australia – The obvious choice, the Victoria and South Australia battle has been the most prominent in Australian Rules football and would be a perfect once or twice a year once in Melbourne and once in Adelaide. The idea promotes state football the way it used to be.
Vs. SA, WA and Allies – Back in the mid 90’s State Football has Victoria playing South Australia, Western Australia and an Allies team (NSW/ACT, QLD) where Victoria would play South Australia in Melbourne one year then the next would play Western Australia in Perth, then the Allies in Melbourne and so on with the other sides playing each other.
Whichever way the AFL decide to go it needs to remain consistent over time and also be able to pull crowds upwards of 40,000. The problem in the past is that the VFL/AFL have tried to change the system too much, from WA vs Vic we have had Australian Carnivals, Allies the list goes on but in order to bring Origin back with force the AFL need to be smart about their decision.
Verdict: State of Origin needs to come back; we saw last year crowds during the pre-season competition lacking and the interest in games with minimal. If we had these State of Origin Games early February and shortened the pre-season competition. It would be the perfect way to Kick-Off the season with a bang and get the crowds through the gates. Going back to the Mid 90s and a concept that worked for origin football. The first year would look something like this:
Victoria vs. South Australia at the MCG
Western Australia vs. Allies at Patterson’s Stadium
After that a Round Robin played year by year with teams playing home and away.
State of Origin isn’t far away, a popular money-maker for the AFL and the chance to represent your State on the big stage once again. I was only young but will never forget being at the MCG when Ted Whitten was driven around the ground before the Big V smashed South Australia. State of Origin creates once again a battle field between states.
Draw the Battle lines once again!