State of Origin returns to Melbourne tonight, the latest in rugby league’s crude attempts at redress for the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
How much longer can Victoria’s number one sport withstand these constant advances of the Origin juggernaut? Or is laneway art popular enough to withstand the attack?
And of greater concern, what about the state’s fledgling start-up of AFL?
Can Melbourne’s football code withstand the irresistible pull of transcendent names like Jai Arrow, Angus Crichton and the unmistakable Kalvin Waters?
More State of Origin 1
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» As it happened: Re-live Origin 1 with our live scores and blog
» WATCH: Josh Addo-Carr scores an unbelievably good try to seal the result
» WATCH: Tom Trbojevic’s superb high-flying try
While Victorians would usually call upon a Dylan Napa to download music or a Trbejovic brother to settle a debt, you have to concede their attitude towards league is not what it once was.
This is due to two factors: the Melbourne Storm, and because Origin continues to re-emerge in the city like a fierce case of herpes for which there’s no ointment, only abstinence.
So, thanks to these viral insurgences of beefy league, Melburnians are now as familiar with the code as an organically sourced deconstructed goldfish milk macchiato served in a hammock and priced on the menu without a decimal point.
There’s no doubt, the Vics really love their rugby. So why do they need this insulting guide to a game they already intimately know?
Because this year, Origin is different.
With the Maroons taking the field minus a host of Victorians like Cameron Smith, Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, the team is virtually unrecognisable because it’s made almost entirely of Queenslanders.
In addition, they don’t have Johnathan Thurston, confidence, a full team, or even goal kickers. Kinda like Carlton, only with sleeves and an aversion to cutlery.
As for NSW, they have picked yet another side poised to break Queensland’s 450-year reign, except this time there’s a break with tradition because it could do so by scoring.
Everything in Origin in 2018 is so overhauled, even the new jerseys are unidentifiable and misleading.
Gone is the gratuitous beer sponsorships, with the Blues strip now deceivingly branded with a law firm (implying they are innocent), and the Maroons a superannuation fund (implying Queenslanders have jobs).
Taking the foreigners out of the Maroons and the doubt out the Blues is like taking the Dangerwood out of Geelong or the halitosis out of Collingwood.
But have no fear – tonight’s Origin does possess a familiar, AFL flavour.
Greg Inglis once was introduced to Essendon, James Maloney has apparently seen a Sherrin online, while Jack de Belin once met a Sharon online, who apparently looked like a pack-a-day Johnny Platten. So, thankfully, the loyal Melbourne media can still thrill us with 150 ‘which AFL club could win Origin?’ pieces.
But, best of all, you petty Victorians can now forget your tenuous ties to the Storm superstars and finally side with the state most relatable both geographically and culturally – i.e. the ones who don’t brush their teeth with a possum on a stick.
Nowadays, Sydney and Melbourne are practically cultural sorority sisters, especially when you consider an inhabitant like Reagan Campbell-Gillard. He’s already promised to kill someone, but it was a metaphor – so he’s technically a poet. Just like most of Fitzroy.
Plus there’s new coach Brad Fittler, a greenie tripper who loves tai chi and walking around barefoot to soak up nutrients. Basically, he’s stuck in the mid-2000s, which was the last time the Blues were any good and when Dermot Brereton’s hairstyle was only a decade out of date.
And even if you detest Origin, at least consider the benefits to local tourism.
Fans from NSW and Queensland will be flocking south with their spending money, all in the hope of spotting some of your famous street culture like a stunning art deco piece or Brendan Fevola wearing a fake penis.
So forget the low-scoring congestion of your chosen game, because Laurie Daley isn’t coaching anymore. Do yourself a favour and buy a ticket to the Origin opener, because the NRL can’t fudge a crowd without a crowd.
Finally, don’t forget: in rugby league, the officials are to blame for everything. So you fans don’t have to beat the crap out of each other after the match again, just like those damn soccer hooligans.