With rugby league in the midst of State of Origin fever, Queensland and New South Wales fans packed 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, although it took months of debate and the question was thrown up on talkback stations around the state and country.
Eventually on the May 10, 2008 the “Big V” side captained by Jonathon Brown took on Andrew McLeod’s “Dream Team”, which was made up of players from the rest of Australia, in the same way as the Allies were back in the early nineties.
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, it’s 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 Queensland in rugby league, Victoria versus NSW in cricket etc. 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 Victoria-based event, in that Victoria would have to play in every match.
Their opponents could be an 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 off game that, as we saw in 2008, would bring 70,000 people through the gates. However, it wouldn’t demonstrate that state versus state battle.
Versus South Australia?
This is 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.
What about versus SA, WA and the Allies? Back in the mid 90’s, state football saw Victoria playing South Australia, Western Australia and an Allies team (NSW/ACT and Queensland) 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 versus Victoria we have had Australian carnivals, Allies and the list goes on. But in order to bring Origin back with force, the AFL needs to be smart about their decision.
Verdict: State of Origin needs to come back; we saw last year crowds during the pre-season competition were lacking and the interest in games were 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 90’s 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 battlelines once again!