The fading relevance of State of Origin
Queensland player Brent Tate punches NSW player Greg Bird in the head during State of Origin 3 at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Wednesday, July 4, 2012 (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
I should probably write an article about Origin, I keep telling myself. But really, what is there to say now that New South Wales has lost their seventh straight series?
Growing up, I immersed myself in the whole Origin hoopla like some kind of marketer’s dream. I’d buy the Origin edition of Rugby League Week and fork out for a Daily Telegraph, the latter a rare treat for a child raised on Sydney’s North Shore.
The big, bold headlines and easy-to-read articles were like soft porn for a prepubescent 10-year-old rugby league aficionado.
Even as a 10-year-old, I knew the Tele to be a source of great rugby league information for the Men in Fluoro Vests. On my way to school, I marvelled at the blue-collar workers in my suburb, envious of their seemingly carefree existence.
I’d eavesdrop on their juicy conversations, which ranged from earnest discussions regarding Brad Fittler’s (suspect) tackling technique to “the jugs” on *insert prominent female celebrity circa 1995-6*.
Just witnessing these guys, with their love for meat pies, V energy drinks and tabloid journalism, would send me to a brighter, simpler place… before I’d be forced to quickly snap out of it and board the train to my solemn, stuffy private school, where tabloid newspapers were to be neither seen nor heard of and rugby league was considered the dominion of the lower class.
Fast-forward 16 years and I’m now working in Sydney’s CBD. My morning paper is the Australian Financial Review. I haven’t specifically sat down to watch the Channel Nine Origin pre-game show in at least five years.
All this has got me thinking that I’ve probably become too cynical to enjoy Origin anymore.
Origin is a cyclical event: part of its charm is the fact that nothing really changes on a year-to-year basis. As we know, the NRL trades endlessly on its past glory.
You know that for three Wednesday nights a year, Kenny Sutcliffe will take you under his wing and guide you through the History of Origin for half-an-hour before passing the baton to narrator Peter Sterling, tasked with reading out the team line-ups and providing anecdotes on delightfully named grassroots clubs like Greg Bird’s Maitland Pumpkin Pickers.
This is all part of Channel Nine’s tried-and-tested Origin blueprint: it’s designed to fire you up for the big game ahead.
Then it’s time for the big show. Ray ‘Rabbits’ Warren and Phil Gould’s shared passion and vocal magnificence provide the Scorsese-like soundtrack to the visual bloodbath before you, catapulting you helplessly into a catatonic Origin stupor.
At least, this is what’s supposed to happen.
Sadly, watching Origin these days is like going to see Men in Black III. You know that you’re going to get exactly what you got the last time you saw it, but the whole thing is in HD [or 3D] now and there’s a couple of new actors who might make things interesting.
Personally, I wish that I had followed a different path to adulthood and taken up one of those aforementioned blue-collar jobs. It’d probably pay better, for starters.
But more importantly, I’d be among men who, every morning, read the Telegraph, eat meat pies and drink energy drinks – despite the obvious health warnings (for all three vices) – and have a shared, unbreakable love for Origin football.
This Utopian world, in which we all simultaneously exist in a simple state of arrested rugby league development, seems awfully bliss.
Together, we’d listen to INXS, Midnight Oil and Cold Chisel on a boombox blaring 104.9′s Triple M. We’d laugh heartily at Matty Johns’ antics on The Grill Team, because prank telephone calls apparently still stand the test of time. And every hour, we’d get our two-minute hit of current affairs from some guy named ‘The Spoonman’ before normal rugby league analysis resumed.
And when Origin rolls around, we’ll bring up the incredulous fact that Greg Inglis was actually born in Kempsey – a fact raised each year ever since Inglis’ selection, to no avail – and ponder whether NSW has “finally got the halves pairing they need to beat Queensland.”
This yearly tradition will continue until each of us bow out gracefully following a successful workers’ compensation claim.
It’s not that I consider Origin – or the people whose hearts still bleed for the state-against-state clashes – to be beneath me now. I’d really love to force a tear over NSW’s seventh consecutive series loss.
But I’m just saying that as a discerning adult male in a constantly evolving macro-economic climate, it’s getting harder and harder to care.
Dave Edwards is Chief Editor of fledgling satirical sports website The Public Apology