The 2015 State of Origin series marks the 35th anniversary of what many have labelled as the pinnacle of Australian sport.
Every New South Welshman and Queenslander that has ever pulled on a pair of boots has dreamed and aspired to represent their state, just as their heroes did before them.
Since the mid 1980s the State of Origin concept has broken crowd attendance and television ratings records, and for three months of the year it is on everyone’s lips, even inspiring people who don’t normally watch club games to tune in, thus earning the ‘pinnacle’ tag.
However, is it still the pinnacle of Australian sport?
Before 1980, the height of representative football was to pull on the green and gold jumper and represent your country against the best players in the world. It was the height of a footballer’s career and players were proud to represent their country.
In the 1980s the Australian Test side dominated the world, and were tagged ‘The Invincibles’.
Throughout the ’80s, ’90s and ’00s, the Kangaroos continued their dominance of the world stage, and the crowds and interest in international football suffered.
Before long, Origin was labelled as the toughest match-up and fiercest rivalry in not only rugby league, but Australian sport.
So what happened in the first game of the 2015 series? Where was the toughness? Where was the passion? The majority of the players were going through the motions in a game that won’t go down in State of Origin folklore.
Both teams lacked the fire and intensity that Origin is famed for.
Sadly, the 2013 and 2014 series it felt the same way, Queensland using the same old set plays and NSW trying to hold them out.
Test football, on the other hand, is starting to make an impact. The 2013 World Cup showed the world that international football is, not what is was in the past 30 years, with a record attendance of 74,468 at Old Trafford to watch the final between Australia and New Zealand.
Since then, New Zealand has knocked Australia off as the number one team in the world, and they did so convincingly with wins in the Four Nations and the Anzac Test.
If New Zealand were included in the State of Origin series they would beat both NSW and Queensland with ease.
It’s time for the Australian Rugby League to stop labelling State of Origin as the pinnacle and start looking at bringing some passion, rivalry, toughness, marketing and hype back to international rugby league.
Let’s reattach that ‘pinnacle’ tag to the green and gold jumper.