The Agony and the Agony of State of Origin
Darius Boyd scores a try while being tackled by Akuila Uate during State of Origin 1 between Queensland and New South Wales at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Wednesday, May 23, 2012. (AAP Image/Action Photographics, Renee McKay)
When will it end? When will the unremitting torture cease and allow a proud-yet-clinically-depressed New South Welshman some psychological respite?
When will the annual agony ease and let me live once more with the sun in my heart? State of Origin time has always been a fraught time, a time for anguish and heartache occasionally punctuated by, not exultation, but relief and exhaustion.
However the grim death-march of the last six years, which now, after last night’s predictable catastrophe, seems likely to stretch to a seventh, is simply too much for a sensitive soul to bear.
Oh, it would be easy to blame the referees. Easy, and accurate. But we won’t get anywhere by heaping opprobrium on the officials. It will do us no good to question their parentage, or their personal hygiene, or demand they return the bugling cash-stuffed brown paper bags that Mal Meninga obviously slipped them before the game.
It will not provide one ounce of solace for us to curse the names of the referees and their descendants unto the seventh generation, or to call upon all the dark gods and demons of the netherworld to wreak hideous revenge upon them.
If State of Origin teaches us one thing, it is that there is little practical benefit to devising elaborate and graphic fantasies about tying up referees with the entrails of disembowelled pigs and suspending them upside down in enormous vats of boiling lard and horse manure. This will get us nowhere. The refs made their decisions, the game ended, they received their medals of honour from Campbell Newman, and the world moves on.
But when will we see relief? I hate to second-guess the wisdom of the universe, but surely we unhappy blues have suffered enough, and it is now time for the cosmic wheel to turn in our favour?
There is not much left to say about the modern Origin era. The fact is that Queensland has been blessed by a collection of freakishly talented individuals hitting their peaks at the same time, and NSW, with its solid selection strategy of choosing players based mainly on the dual criteria of ability to throw punch and ability to blindly pass the ball to nobody, has been unable to match them. Up against the core of the Maroon juggernaut in Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith and Greg Inglis, it is not necessarily any disgrace to have lost so many series.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt.
God it hurts. To keep taking this horrible battering every year. You’d think by this stage the Queenslanders would get into a huddle and say “Look guys, the little fellas have had enough. Let’s let them have this one.” But no. No mercy. Can’t you bastards show a bit of compassion, a bit of pity?
Isn’t it enough that we have to suffer the nightmarish indignity of having Phil Gould on our side, babbling his “that’s Origin!” gibberish throughout every game? Have we not suffered more than our share of torment? Apparently not, for it just keeps piling on.
All I want is for Origin period to be a little less depressing. A little less inevitable. I’d like one year when the stone-cold certainty that Queensland will score a try in the dying minutes to be incorrect. I’d like one year when a Blue player giving away a pointless penalty at a crucial stage, or dropping the ball with a try looming, or failing to find the freaking touchline with a penalty kick, came as a surprise to me.
Rather, it hits home with a dull thud of familiarity, the sense that rather than absurd, schoolboy-level mistakes that come along at this level but rarely, they are simply the natural order of things. I’d like a year where I could look forward to both teams lifting for the occasion, as opposed to the current arrangement, where the Queenslanders raise their performance for the big games and the New South Welshmen swap bodies with their local under-15s teams.
I want some hope. Is a little hope too much to ask, in this grey and dismal world? Is it so outlandish of me to want the experience of being a NSW fan to have a bit of light and shade about it, rather than the Gothic nightmare of nausea and self-harm that it has come to be?
Like I said, there is not much to be said about the game. The Maroons won. Because of Thurston, and Smith, and Slater, and Inglis, and Nate Myles and Darius Boyd. Because of their indefatigable defence. Because of their will to win. Because of their experience and coolness under pressure. Because of NSW mistakes and and a lack of killer instinct and of course because of the bloody refs.
But most of all, Queensland won because that’s what Queensland does. It’s not really sport anymore, it’s a law of physics. The earth goes around the sun. What goes up must come down. Queensland wins State of Origin games. There is nothing to be said, and nothing to be done, and all that is left for me to do is despair.
Please, somebody. Make it stop.
Ben Pobjie is a writer and comedian writing weekly on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys the frolics of Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms. Ben is also the author of the books Surveying the Wreckage, Superchef, and his latest, The Book of Bloke, available from Momentum Books.