Remembering the origin of State of Origin
My US workmates have been wondering why I’ve been yelling at my computer screen at lunch times, while watching State of Origin highlight clips from days gone by. So I tried to explain myself.
Australia comes to a standstill tonight.
Many people around the world (plus the Australians living under a rock) must be wondering what all the fuss is all.
It’s nothing more and nothing less than the State of Origin rugby league.
This is not the same form of rugby you might know.
The rugby football ‘league’ began about 115 years ago as a breakaway league from the rugby football ‘union’.
The league contingent wanted money, while the rugby union camp wanted to keep things amateur.
And so began 100 years of hostility between the working class ‘leagies’ and the aristocratic ‘rugger buggers’.
The mungoes versus the rah rahs, for short.
Over the years numerous rule changes have resulted in two very different codes of football, still generally separated by the historic class barriers.
But regardless of your choice of code, the annual rugby-league State of Origin is close to the pinnacle.
Queensland versus New South Wales. It’s the most fiercely contested game of football on the Australian sporting calendar.
It’s more passionately supported by rabid fans at home than the right to bear arms in the USA.
This largely comes down to one thing, the understanding of people from Queensland that those from south of the Tweed River cannot be trusted.
Since as long as anyone can remember, people from Queensland have hated people from New South Wales.
No one knows exactly when this began, though some have suggested that it may date to around three or four days after the big bang.
Unfortunately, up until around 1980 games of league between Queensland and NSW were based on residency.
If you played club footy in Sydney, you played for NSW, regardless of where you came from.
Now the typical upbringing of a Queensland male has him slaughtering his first steer at around four years old, riding his first bull by age six and catching his first croc at around 13.
At similar ages your typical male born south of the Tweed River will apply product to his hair, moisturise for the first time and begin manscaping his bum-fluff.
This may be hard to believe, but having lived in both places I can attest to its veracity.
Given the obvious difference between the two states Queensland footballers headed to Sydney to play footy in the big smoke and make a motza.
The manscaping wannabes from NSW just didn’t have as much talent.
As much as it made their skin crawl to even be down there, those poor Queensland pioneers, the money was worth it.
But anytime the state games rolled around, the team from NSW was stacked full of Queenslanders who played down there.
As expected the part timers from up north were beaten by their temporarily mislocated brothers. It wasn’t much fun for anyone.
In 1980, after years of predictable results of NSW teams full of Sydney-based Queenslanders outscoring the Queensland-based players, the idea of State of Origin was born.
Where you played your first senior footy was your state of origin.
Finally, the boys from Queensland could line-up together as one and play against the hated men from down south.
There was much anticipation as this new concept was trialed. No one really knew if it would take off.
No one, except for those from north of the border. They understood the shame so many of their sons had felt playing in the despised blue jersey of NSW.
So the day came. In the first ever State of Origin game the boys from Queensland were proudly led out by their captain, the great immortal Arthur Beetson.
Big Artie was a Queenslander through and through.
Towards the end of the game Beetson came in and snotted one of his Sydney club teammates in a tackle.
The victim was none other than the likeable Mr Nice Guy Mick Cronin.
In that moment, State of Origin was here to stay.
It was mate against mate, state against state.
Since then, it has become one of the most brutal contests between football teams anywhere in the world.
And some of the hits in contact are real bone rattlers…
Sometimes, they don’t even bother trying to tackle, they just go in swinging.
Well, at least the dirty cheap-shot thug merchants from NSW do anyway.
But some things are forever true about Origin. Queensland plays the game with more passion than the NSW blues. This passion means they play for the full 80 minutes and they always score last.
This is one of the all-time classic tries, scored in the final minute to win the game. Just magic.
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