Two weeks before the historic series victory to NSW, NRL CEO Dave Smith declared that banning the biff had been an emphatic success.
It took a single game without punches being thrown for Smith to declare his ‘one punch and you’re off’ policy a success.
This will go down in rugby league history as a gaff akin to US President George W. Bush declaring “Mission accomplished” in a May 2003 speech about the Iraq war, only to see the vast majority of military and civilian casualties occur afterwards.
Although Smith had the hindsight of presiding over the complete farce of the four-player sin bin in Origin 2, 2013. Fans from both sides of the boarder were left disgusted at what the CEO had brought the jewel in the crown down to.
Yet a week before Origin 2 2014, Dave Smith was crowing his own “Mission accomplished”, saying the no-punch policy broadened the appeal of the game.
After seeing arguably the toughest game of Origin history in Game 1, fans, sponsors and commentators alike got to witness 80 minutes of grubby, unattractive football as both sides were guilty of playing the man instead of the football in Game 2.
It had been the hallmark of NSW football for eight years of defeat. From 2006 onwards, a number of NSW players have concentrated more on how much forearm they could deliver, rather than how many metres they racked up or tackles they made.
That’s not to say Queenslanders were not also guilty of similar tactics. But when your performances with ball in hand over an eight-year dynasty far outweigh the niggle, the results speak for themselves.
NSW have been on the rise for a number of years and after a memorable Origin 1, the pressure began to show, with the Queenslanders guilty of becoming victim of a tactic that served NSW so badly for the better part of a decade.
In the past, such blatant foul play would have seen the proverbial Donnybrook unleashed on that hallowed State of Origin turf. That out of the system, we may have actually seen some attacking football played on Wednesday night.
Let’s face it. It was the great Arthur Beetson’s punch on his Parramatta teammate and club captain Mick Cronin that really lit the fire under the State of Origin concept in 1980.
State of Origin is already the most-watched event on the Australian calendar. Every year you’ll even see the AFL commentators talking about it. What wider audience do you really need?
Any appeal to a wider audience isn’t going to come from banning the biff. There is only downside risk of alienating the already loyal supporter base that rugby league already has.
I for one am extremely happy NSW won Game 2, if for no other reason it makes Game 3 at Lang Park a dead rubber. Hopefully without a series at stake, players from both sides will pay little attention to this ridiculous sin bin rule and unleash the fury in response to acts of grubby and unsightly play that maligned Game 2. Maybe then we’ll get to see some football played.