The Roar
The Roar


Origin really is a peculiar thing

Jarryd Hayne of the NSW Blues (AAP Image/Dan Peled)
Roar Rookie
4th June, 2017

My girlfriend posed a curious question during the first State of Origin match: If rugby league were invented tomorrow, would anyone want to play it?

Think about it – if somebody asked you to find 12 mates, a patch of grass, colour coordinated outfits and an egg shaped ball – you’d probably find it strange.

If they explained the rules – without any protective gear, you get five turns to get that ball over the other team’s line and while you move forward you must throw the ball backwards.

Also, most importantly, you’re allowed to attack, whack and smack the other team to stop them doing the same.

I’d wager if somebody suggested this game to you, well it would sound kind of funky. And this is all before trying to explain scrums, the history of the corner post and the exact purpose of The Bunker.

Not to mention the fact that if you’re any good, you’ll probably have to live in the north of England, two states in Australia, or Auckland if you want to make it professionally.

We’re also assuming this non-rugby league parallel universe doesn’t have rugby union or gridiron with which to compare.

Though, to be honest, in the rugby league filled paradise in which we do live, it’s still difficult to explain why we have versions of essentially the same sport but some with 7, 9, 13, 15 players on the field, plus the one in North America with funny helmets.

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Now I’m being a little facetious. You can make anything sound peculiar. A novel is just a bunch of words, a movie is just pictures of other people. Hell, life is just a bunch of stuff you do until you die.

But it is worthwhile to take a step back and think about these things from time to time. When it comes down to it, we love rugby league because it’s all we’ve really known. If it were pitched to us as a brand new sport, it would sound pretty peculiar.

State of Origin grips me every year, but I don’t often stop to think about why. It’s just a given.

When I think about it, I’ve got no real grievance with New South Wales. In fact, if I were born a few hours south, I’d have to support them myself.

If I were born in nearly any other place on earth, I’d probably love soccer. So the fact I invest so much in three footy games is outright crazy.

That rugby league exists at all is strange. That we have State of Origin, the best version of it here on the eastern seaboard of Australia, a hundred years after it was invented in England, is even luckier.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I can witness and take part in State of Origin mania. But in so many other contexts, the sport is a bit odd.

If it were invented tomorrow would anyone want to play it? Probably. It might just take a hundred years and a lot of luck along the way.