To grow international rugby league, we must kill State of Origin

Adam Bagnall Roar Guru

By Adam Bagnall, Adam Bagnall is a Roar Guru

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105 Have your say

    Australia and England will contest the Rugby League World Cup final this weekend, and while a little predictable, few could have envisioned the success of the likes of Tonga, Papua New Guinea and Ireland.

    Each of those sides punched well above their weight at this year’s tournament and represent the future of rugby league.

    So where to now?

    It’s important we nurture these nations, giving them regular fixtures between now and the 2020 World Cup, thus allowing them to grow as rugby league nations. In turn it will make the next event even more competitive.

    There have been a number of ideas thrown about, such as a Pacific Nations tournament which is great, but Matt Johns’ suggestion that these nations then combine in some rep side to play a tier one nation smacks of desperation.

    The nations have proven their ability to stand up on their own feet and compete as individual countries.

    Anyway, I think we need to have these second tier nations playing a lot more that what they have been, and if Samoa can play at least a couple of Tests each year between now and 2020, perhaps we won’t see a repeat of the farce they produced at this tournament.

    Australia, England and New Zealand players get plenty of game time playing in the NRL and Super League, so it’s less important that those players play lots of internationals. I’m talking more about the part timers of Lebanon, Ireland and the like, as well as Italy who boast a sprinkling of NRL talent.

    How to fit in more international games in an already crowded schedule?

    It may seem like a crazy idea, but if State of Origin was consigned to the scrapheap or maybe reduced to one game a year we could play more internationals.

    Brett Hodgson is tackled by Gorden Tallis

    (Photo: Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)

    State of Origin was great when teams were primarily based on either NSW or Queensland and the two sides were evenly matched.

    Watching Queensland dominate year after year for the last decade has certainly waned interest and there is nowhere for State of Origin to grow.

    Games at ANZ Stadium get around 80,000, games at Suncorp get around 50,000 and TV ratings are great, so in essence, State of Origin has peaked.

    Conversely, the World Cup has been criticised for low crowds, a lack of marketing, and bizarre scheduling that has seen the tournament drag out for far too long.

    The international games needs to be prioritised so we get massive crowds when Australia play Lebanon, not the 21,000 we had at Allianz Stadium recently.

    Think of it this way, which is better for the growth of rugby league on a global scale, a USA team that can challenge tier one teams, and be made up of a strong core of locally-based players, or Queensland beating NSW again?

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    The Crowd Says (105)

    • November 29th 2017 @ 4:42am
      Steve said | November 29th 2017 @ 4:42am | ! Report

      I have absolutely zero idea how Origin has any impact on international rugby league match between Ireland and PNG or Wales v USA. People will go and watch if they are interested in the sport, hence the reason why more people watch a cricket match in India than they do a rugby match or more people watch a football match in Germany than an Aussie Rules match.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 8:14am
        Peter Phelps said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:14am | ! Report


        In case you didn’t hear that, No !

        This is a crazy idea and quite frankly one that won’t even get considered by the NRL for a nano second.

        You never ever kill off your winners to nurture start-ups.

        I am very pro the international game. I think it is great and we do need to help emerging nations. But helping them is about encouragement, development and nurturing. What the UK Superleague has done with the Wolfpack is one way of nurturing these countries. A Pacific Islands test is another, Broaden the annual Kiwi / Australia test to include another nation if you want but killing Origin is like killing the golden goose. More marketing and more international competition and different levels – Yes This is the way to help these nations.

        The world of Rugby League has always been fragile. The UK has been on the precipice for decades despite all their best efforts and we have had our issues with splits, appalling leadership and poor funding and yet we are by far and away the wealthiest, best developed and most firmly established of all the RL countries. The international game needs a strong Australia and Australia needs a strong Origin.

        Kill Origin and you submit our code to a long lingering death!

    • November 29th 2017 @ 5:14am
      Terry Tavita said | November 29th 2017 @ 5:14am | ! Report

      to grow rugby league internationally you need to kill rugby, as is simply known, is now firmly established in almost every single country around the globe..

      • November 29th 2017 @ 7:33am
        Not so super said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:33am | ! Report

        Yeah it’s massive in china, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Pakistan, Germany, Russia

        • November 29th 2017 @ 1:38pm
          Terry Tavita said | November 29th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

          mebbe there’s potential for league there then..

        • Roar Guru

          November 29th 2017 @ 4:25pm
          Cadfael said | November 29th 2017 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

          You do realise that there is the Asian Championships. The notable exception here is China but Hong Kong plays in the Championship (as well as Lebanon). Both Russia dn germany compete in European rugby union.

          • November 29th 2017 @ 7:19pm
            Terry Tavita said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:19pm | ! Report

            shrugs..never heard of big is it?

      • November 29th 2017 @ 8:12am
        Taurangaboy said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:12am | ! Report

        Yes I agree Terry. We should amalgamate rugby union and league. It’s about time!

        • November 29th 2017 @ 8:16am
          Peter Phelps said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:16am | ! Report

          Back to the Future ?????

      • November 29th 2017 @ 11:04am
        Brian said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        A huge international field for RU, yet a country with 4 million people dominates it with a win rate over 90%. Super competitive.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 1:38pm
          Terry Tavita said | November 29th 2017 @ 1:38pm | ! Report

          the all blacks are very good..been so for the last 100 years..

        • November 29th 2017 @ 2:36pm
          Mack said | November 29th 2017 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

          Brian what a load of rubbish. The facts are union is massively more popular and competitive around the world than league regardless of who is ranked no. 1. Tonga almost reached the final of the RLWC and this is without virtually any home grown players because league is small there compared to union. This is a country of 100k people! On any measure of international strength (crowds, money, sponsorship, teams, local competitions, grass roots growth, tv and media viewership etc) rugby union leaves league for dead. The difference between league and union is that the kangaroos dominate because they are one of only two pro countries in the world with England. The NRL is far and away the biggest and best funded comp, while Australia has the largest player numbers by some margin. In union, NZ has less playing numbers than England, France, South Africa, Japan, and USA and is comparable to many other countries in the top 20. Money wise it is way behind most of these countries as well as other UK countries and yet still achieves well. That is nothing to do with a lack of competitiveness as evidenced by the losses the abs have had over the last couple of years and the competitive games through most of the top 10-12 nations, it’s about the all blacks continued excellence.

          • November 29th 2017 @ 6:52pm
            Tingo Tango said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:52pm | ! Report


            Maybe the reason that those larger countries do not compete that well against NZ is that RU is not that popular in those countries.

            In places like to UK the best athletes are going to play football first and everything else second.

            As far as the USA goes I was there when the last RUWC was on and never heard a word about it and looked on local sports shows in Vegas and nothing.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 7:16pm
              Terry Tavita said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

              rugby union has contractual agreements with nbc and cbs, 2 of the biggest national broadcasters in the US..union is not huge there but it’s growing..every time i see league expansion plans i go back to the super league war 20 years ago and murdoch’s then plans to take the sport to a global audience using his media empire..perhaps rugby league missed the boat..

        • Roar Guru

          November 29th 2017 @ 3:06pm
          pformagg said | November 29th 2017 @ 3:06pm | ! Report

          Clearly, you have no understanding of the global game.

          • November 29th 2017 @ 5:01pm
            Terry Tavita said | November 29th 2017 @ 5:01pm | ! Report

            just saying the all blacks have been a trendsetter the last hundred years..what’s wrong with that?..or did i say something i shoudn’t have?

      • November 29th 2017 @ 6:47pm
        Tingo Tango said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:47pm | ! Report

        Yes it is the number one sport in countries such as NZ and the Pacific Island nations (maybe not Tonga anymore), not to forget the principality of Wales and the white population of South Africa.

        Yes it is simply a global avalanche taking over the planet.

        In the meantime the NRL is still the biggest club Rugby Competition of either code and the Brisbane Broncos the worlds biggest club.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 8:25pm
          Mack said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:25pm | ! Report

          TT – RU has a decent presence and can fill stadiums across all continents (Africa – SA and Madagascar with decent crowds in Kenya/ Uganda); (Asia – Japan and Hong Kong, with decent crowds in Sri lanka and massive investment in China); (South America – Argentina with decent crowds in Chile and Uruguay); (North America – USA and Canada); (UK – all parts); Continental Europe (France, Italy, Georgia and often Russia and increasingly Germany); (Oceania – NZ, Aus and Islands). The no.1 team in RL struggled to fill venues for a home world cup, while NZ (no 2) with the exception of the tongan home games were not any better. for the remainder of the world outside of England, RL would struggle to pull any decent crowd for an international. I think in this context RU is doing quite well and shows you don’t have to be soccer to have a decent global presence.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 5:45am
      Sports Prophet said | November 29th 2017 @ 5:45am | ! Report

      The problem is, maybe Samoa v Tonga aside, few players that represented these “tier 2” nations you speak of and the rest of them are unlikely to play for those teams unless it’s a World Cup.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 6:27am
        Adam said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:27am | ! Report

        That’s true at this stage, maybe the governing body could provide more incentives to represent these nations in between World Cups. Better match payments for one, or a dedicated schedule of matches, rather than a random game that pops up out of the blue

        • November 29th 2017 @ 7:07am
          Sports Prophet said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:07am | ! Report

          In my opinion, the NRL should evolve to become the governing body for the entire South Pacific region and the ARL, NZRL, PNGRL and all the other governing bodies become act as NRL representatives in each nation.

          That would be the way to get the NRL on board with complete funding of representative teams other than Kanga’s and SOO.

          • Roar Guru

            November 29th 2017 @ 9:56pm
            Sleiman Azizi said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:56pm | ! Report

            I’m not against that.

            It’s certainly worth discussing.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 6:00am
      Zac Jones said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:00am | ! Report

      State of Origin is the best of the best. “International” Rugby League isnt.. simple and its why it will never take off

      • Roar Pro

        November 29th 2017 @ 8:13am
        QConners said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:13am | ! Report

        That’s exactly what is wrong with the game and the reasons international rugby league can never grow while State of Origin exists. State of Origin should never have been marketed as the ‘best of the best’ because, essentially, it’s incorrect. It’s marketed as such for the casual fans that watch and thus the money it makes.

        In every sport around the world, the best of the best is the international game, Rugby League should be the same. I don’t think getting rid of Origin is the answer, but the NRL needs to establish less focus on Origin and more on international footy if they ever want to grow the game beyond Australia.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 8:23am
          Peter Phelps said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:23am | ! Report

          But it is the best of the best !

          Its a national competition and within the nation it is definitely the best of the best. You could even argue that since Australia is ranked number 1 in the world (and enhanced by the fact that it is probably daylight second) then even at international level it is still best of the best.

          What we need to do is market the hell out of Origin as the best of the best worldwide. Excite audiences across the globe with the power, the passion and the skills that is Rugby League at its best. Create the interest and the demand. Generate the funding on a massive scale and then invest in those countries that need the help the most but make no mistake, it is by pushing Origin that be best help these fledgling nations not killing it.

          • Roar Rookie

            November 29th 2017 @ 8:33am
            Hard Yards said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:33am | ! Report

            Which reminds me….isn’t it that time of year when the Blues are supposed to announce their SOO side for next year?

          • November 29th 2017 @ 9:32am
            BA Sports said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:32am | ! Report

            Origin games carry excitement for those invested, but the games themselves to a neutral supporter are often bland, lacking in creativity and risk taking that NRL matches often have. They ,may be the best technically, but I wouldn’t use them to promote the sport to new viewers.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 4:53pm
              Peter Phelps said | November 29th 2017 @ 4:53pm | ! Report

              Try telling that to the thousands of Poms in the North of England who watch it with enthusiasm.

          • November 29th 2017 @ 10:21am
            Sydneysider said | November 29th 2017 @ 10:21am | ! Report

            “Excite audiences across the globe with the power, the passion and the skills that is Rugby League at its best. ”

            You hear this alot from various sports, and the reality is that it never happens.

            For those other countries to connect to a sport, they need to have local heroes and local teams playing it.

            NSW v QLD means zero to rugby league fans in other countries – ok, there are people who will care, but take a look at Fiji and Tonga at this world cup. The fans were just happy to see a team representing them.

            • November 29th 2017 @ 11:43am
              Peter Phelps said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:43am | ! Report

              There is a degree of truth in what you say but the local kids have to get engaged somehow. That somehow is via the media. Once engaged, they can become local heros but it has to start somewhere.

            • Roar Guru

              November 29th 2017 @ 12:13pm
              Nat said | November 29th 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

              Yes and No Sydneysider. Agree the SoO doesn’t have any local heros but it is Qld vs NSW only so it’s not supposed to be the aspiration for all. However, to say it zero to league fans in other countries is wrong. In fact, Neighbours the TV show, is the only Australian program watched by more people in league playing nations (Brits) and even then the SoO has a larger viewing audience as a one-off event. English EPL players ‘tweet’ up a storm over Origin. Not nearly as invested but definitely interested.

              • November 29th 2017 @ 1:11pm
                Sydneysider said | November 29th 2017 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

                Yes Nat but having a large viewing audience overseas for a one off event per year like Origin, doesn’t translate into creating a viable professional domestic competition in that country.

                Remember this isn’t about making origin bigger (I already think it has peaked), it’s about making rugby league bigger in those countries which are developing and don’t have rugby league as their number 1 sport.

                Understand the difference?

                Otherwise, once again it’s the NRL-centric view. Growing the NRL/State of Origin does not grow the game globally.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 29th 2017 @ 9:36pm
          William Dalton Davis said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:36pm | ! Report

          It’s marketed as the best of the best because it’s the best Australian players who are the best team in the world. The best players from the best country. Best of the best.

          However that isn’t what the series was built on. The series was built on State vs State, mate vs mate. NSW vs QLD (or any state really) is a rivalry that reaches through just about every facet of Australian life. Be it politics, lifestyle, sport, you name it. Natural rivalry is a potent recipe for success and the bigger the rivalry the bigger the event will usually become.

          “In every sport in the world the best of the best is the international game.” False. Basketballs best of the best is the NBA. American Footballs best of the best is the NFL. Footballs best of the best is UEFA. In fact other than rugby and cricket I’d say that the vast majority of sports best of the best is in clubs.

      • Roar Rookie

        November 29th 2017 @ 8:39am
        Dave_S said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        As a Qlder, I get more excited about SOO than an international vs NZ or Eng.

        Whether or not that’s logical is beside the point – it is what it is.

        • December 11th 2017 @ 6:09pm
          Jacko said | December 11th 2017 @ 6:09pm | ! Report

          Dave thats because you can put the house on a QLD win…EVERY YEAR…..And in the last ten years you would have win 9 houses and lost 1

      • November 29th 2017 @ 11:59am
        Shinobi said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:59am | ! Report

        If State of Origin is the best of the best then why is Jason Taumalolo considered the best forward in the game? How about Sam Burgess and James Graham? Jesse Bromwich? Jordan Rapana? You saying none of these players would be able to make an Origin squad? As long as Channel Nine keeps hyping up Origin as the 34 best rugby league players on the planet international league will never be able to succeed.

        If they want it to be the best of the best then open it up to all players in the NRL and just make it an All-Star game. The real tribalism of the game has gone now and has been surpassed by the passion of countries like Samoa and Tonga facing off.

        • November 29th 2017 @ 6:57pm
          Tingo Tango said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:57pm | ! Report

          You obviously have not been around long enough to understand the underlying passion of SoO.

          If you did then to suggest to open it up to outsiders takes it completely away from the real essence of the game which is interstate rivalry.

          I am nearly 52 now and I have been following SoO since I was 14. I can not wait every year when it comes around and I am a blues supporter.

        • December 11th 2017 @ 6:13pm
          Jacko said | December 11th 2017 @ 6:13pm | ! Report

          I understand all the passion etc but I dont understand the LIE of the best v the best….We just had a WC where 3 of the teams in the semi finals were NOT allowed to have ONE player in an SOO match…And the No 2 ranked team in league can not have a player in SOO……..Looks a lot like the best of 50% of a domestic comp split into 2 teams…QLD look weak???…Just select a player from NSW and SAY he is a

    • November 29th 2017 @ 6:29am
      Sammy said | November 29th 2017 @ 6:29am | ! Report

      If NSW and Queensland could somehow play internationals like other non-sovereign entities such as England, Scotland and Wales then SOO could be part of the international game.

      Of course it won’t happen – although some may remember the 1997 SuperLeague version of SOO that included New Zealand.

      There’s probably more chance of North Queensland becoming a separate Country with Bob Katter as PM.

      • November 29th 2017 @ 8:27am
        Peter Phelps said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:27am | ! Report

        In some respects, our states are similar in many ways to the different countries of the UK. Both are semi autonoumous structures with legislative assemblies and with separate identities in fact there are probably more differences between QLD and NSW that there is between Wales and England these days.

        So an argument for treating Australian states as separate entities is not so far fetched.

      • November 30th 2017 @ 9:07am
        Fourteen14 said | November 30th 2017 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        Yep that should happen we would have a chance of playing in front of a hostile qld crowd which is equivalent to an abs crowd. Beating nsw would be the highlight nsw losing to Tonga.

    • November 29th 2017 @ 7:05am
      Mike from tari said | November 29th 2017 @ 7:05am | ! Report

      SOO is a milch cow so they will never can it, we already have an international weekend, the problem with organising more international games is the NRL & Super League clubs releasing players mid season, then if players get serious injuries, clubs will be seeking compensation such as Canberra have been doing for Hodgson.
      I see the Hunters have organised a couple of pre season games against the Broncos & Warriors for next year, so maybe the other Island nations could do this as well,
      We see Fiji trying to get a team into the NSW Cup, the sticking point is money, perhaps Samoa & Tonga could do this as well.

      • Roar Guru

        November 29th 2017 @ 8:00am
        Michael Keeffe said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        The reason PNG in the Q Cup has worked so well is because they have a population of 8 milliion people to draw on for developing talent which they have done well. Fiji might work with their 900 000 population but there is no way Tonga and Samoa with only about 100 000 each in population could have the local talent to enter a team. As good as Tonga were all their players that played in the World Cup are playing NRL and even then most of them were born in Aust or NZ and have Tongan heritage. None of them will be turning out for a Tongan NSW or QLD Cup side. There just isn’t the talent pool of local born players in Tonga and Samoa to sustain a side. It’s a nice idea just not likely to happen because of the very small populations they have.

        • Roar Rookie

          November 29th 2017 @ 8:47am
          Dave_S said | November 29th 2017 @ 8:47am | ! Report

          Michael I wouldn’t focus on bare population numbers so much.

          The PIs have a huge player base, but they are mostly playing rugby union – getting a substantial proportion to play league would solve the problem. However, that will be a big challenge – so many play rugby because they can make good money playing for clubs overseas in Europe and Japan.

          • November 29th 2017 @ 9:27am
            not so super said | November 29th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

            but only a small percentage are from the population based in the islands so he has a valid point. it is a tapped out resource

            • November 29th 2017 @ 11:21am
              Dave_S said | November 29th 2017 @ 11:21am | ! Report

              Fair point, PNG clearly has more room for growth from this point on.

              but I wouldn’t consider the the PIs to be a non-starter. There is still local production of players to some extent – the Wallabies have just capped a Tongan born player who lived and played there until his teens.

              And continuing with the rugby eg (sorry, no more after this) the Wallabies have been very successful internationally relative to the actual number of rugby players in Aus.

              Just saying it’s about more than just population numbers.

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