Would State of Origin fix the ‘go home’ epidemic?

Geoff Koop Roar Rookie

By , Geoff Koop is a Roar Rookie

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    Imagine this. It’s October 2007, the Melbourne Storm are only just discovering the might of their powers with Queensland quartet of Jeremy Smith, Cooper Cronk, Billy Slater and Greg Inglis. They’ve just won the grand final convincingly over a Manly side that was simply overpowered.

    Now imagine that Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater turn around to Craig Bellamy and the Storm and say that they want to go home to Queensland . Billy wants to go home to Far North Queensland to be with his family and Cooper Cronk wants to go and be a part of the new Gold Coast Titans squad in his home state.

    One of the greatest trios in NRL history would have never been a thing at club level and the Storm may not have had the amount of success – or one of the biggest scandals – in the game.

    But by 2007 Billy Slater was already a crucial part of the Queensland State of Origin set-up and Cooper Cronk had been crowned the successor to Darren Lockyer as the legend’s career continued to be dwindled by injury.

    Three times a year these Queensland boys would assemble together. They would bond, they would heal and, most of all, they would become each other’s biggest fans and supporters.

    Fast forward to 2017, and once again the AFL is faced with a ridiculously crazy trade period. Jake Lever, Josh Schache, Bryce Gibbs, Charlie Cameron, Brendon Ah Chee, Adam Saad and Devon Smith are all going to be involved in trade talks to ‘return home’.

    This has become a trend in the AFL after the 2013 trade period gave us the phrase ‘The Go Home Five’ when the Brisbane Lions were cruelled by rising starts Elliot Yeo, Sam Docherty, Jared Polec, Billy Longer and Patrick Karnezis all deciding that home was a much better place than what was being built at the Gabbatoir.

    But what if State of Origin existed in the AFL?

    What if, instead of three haemorrhaged rounds in the middle of the year, the AFL held a State of Origin tournament?

    Vic Metro, Vic Country, South Australia and Western Australia make up one division, Tasmania, Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales-ACT make up another. All eight sides play three games each in a round robin format, with the winners crowned from those three games.

    Suddenly for three weeks in the middle of the year you get to go home.

    It would stop the flood of players seeking trades back to their mates and family and it would stop the ridiculous scuttlebutt every offseason. It would all just stop.

    Maybe I’ve taken a far too simplistic view, but name me another sport where players so openly struggle being away from home.

    In my view it’s the lack of representative football in AFL that brings on this homesickness that makes teams outside of the big markets struggle to grow and maintain quality lists.