Should Women’s State of Origin be a standalone event?

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Should women's Origin be a standalone event? (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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    Tonight at North Sydney Oval, rugby league fans will have the opportunity to watch history happen when the first women’s State of Origin between New South Wales and Queensland takes place at North Sydney Oval.

    In the women’s footy space, contests between NSW and Queensland are nothing new. For the last 20 years, the Blues and the Maroons have faced off in what’s been called the Interstate Challenge. Queensland have dominated this contest, winning the first 17 out of the 20 fixtures.

    There has been one draw and in the last two years, the Blues have claimed bragging rights.

    When Todd Greenberg announced the new women’s rugby league competition in December last year, he also announced a number of other changes to women’s rugby league. One of these was the change in name from the Interstate Challenge to State of Origin.

    The message was very clear following this announcement – the men’s and women’s contest are now on equal footing. They are named and branded in exactly the same way. This reemphasises what plenty of us who love women’s footy already knew – that the women who compete in State of Origin take it just as seriously as the men.

    They have exactly the same pride in that jersey and bring similar levels of intensity, physicality and skill when the two teams go head to head.

    For the first time, women’s State of Origin is its own stand-alone fixture. Tickets have been sold to the match, I’ve seen banners around North Sydney featuring Kezie Apps and Meg Ward advertising the game and it will be televised live on Channel Nine and Fox Sports.

    Women’s sport and women’s rugby league will take centre stage and it will have no other rugby league competition due to this weekend being a representative round.

    There has been plenty of conversation this week about whether a stand-alone game is the way to go and some people are very passionate about the women’s game being held as a double-header with the men’s game on Sunday at ANZ Stadium.

    I can see some of the arguments in favour of this. Why not give rugby league fans something extra to watch before the men’s game starts at 7.30pm? In a stadium like ANZ Stadium which holds 80,000 people, it means that there is potentially an entire new audience of people that could get exposed to women’s footy for the first time.

    Additionally, why not give the women the opportunity to play in front of a large audience and on the same stage as the men?

    I see a couple of problems with this. Firstly, just because a stadium holds tens of thousands, does not mean that people are going to turn up early to watch another game. In fact, I would argue that they won’t.

    We have seen this argument played out several times this year with people querying why three grades of football aren’t being played on the same day at the same venue. But the reality is, when more than one grade is played, very few people turn up.

    I saw it at Belmore last weekend and I saw it at ANZ Stadium a few weeks ago at an Eels game. There was barely anyone there before kick-off.

    I think this problem would be even more pronounced for State of Origin with plenty of people outside the stadium trying to soak up the pre-game atmosphere and not being willing to turn up four hours before the men’s game kicks off to watch the women’s contest.

    It would do a tremendous disservice to the women’s game to ask them to play before the men’s game in front of a couple of thousand people. We know that ANZ Stadium can feel empty when it is at less than capacity – the women’s game deserves better than this.

    A-League crowd

    (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    Additionally, the television time slot for the women’s game would not be as favourable as prime time Friday night, with coverage more than likely beginning at 4 pm to televise a double-header.

    By putting the two fixtures together it also forces people who may only want to watch the women’s game to pay for an expensive State of Origin ticket when they may only have interest in the women’s fixture.

    The biggest problem with the doubleheader idea, though, is that it completely discounts what a fabulous atmosphere there will be at North Sydney Oval tonight. Just because there is less capacity at a venue for a fixture, does not mean the fixture has been any less of a success.

    North Sydney Oval is a wonderful venue to watch sport. I had the opportunity to watch the Women’s Ashes there last year, some Shute Shield and plenty of WBBL. Particularly when it came to women’s sport, I experienced a warm, friendly, festival type atmosphere with so many people there and excited to watch the Australian Women’s Cricket team. It was a really enjoyable experience.

    This is exactly what will happen tonight. And this beautiful atmosphere is exactly what out female rugby league players deserve. Their fixture is good enough to stand on its own two feet and when they run out tonight, they will be greeted by a roaring crowd who are there to see them.

    There will also be hopefully millions of eyeballs on them because of television as well as plenty of ears listening through radio and this is where the real opportunity to grow women’s footy is.

    I am not an expert, so I would be really interested to hear the thoughts of those who matter the most – the players. Because I am happy to be proven wrong.

    There is no right or wrong answer here – what is positive for me is that there are people out there passionate about the women’s game and who want it to grow.

    I look forward to seeing plenty of you at North Sydney Oval tonight. It’s going to be a very special evening and a tremendous celebration of the growth of women’s rugby league in this country.

    It may also be one step closer to the first year in history when the men’s and women’s NSW teams have won their respective titles.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (19)

    • Roar Guru

      June 22nd 2018 @ 7:45am
      BA Sports said | June 22nd 2018 @ 7:45am | ! Report

      I think you would get a mixed response from the women playing as well. Some would probably love the opportunity to play on ANZ Stadium infront of the good sized crowd – but as you said it would have been a 4pm kick-off – 4 hours before the Mens match – would anyone have come?

      To me the benefits of the stand alone are;
      The entire crowd on hand are there to watch you – as a curtain raiser, they are not.
      Friday Night Footy – under lights – recent tradition is this time slot has been a quazi- match of the round. That is something these girls as fans growing up watching the game would have dreamed of being apart of.
      Being Friday night, it leaves a window for the game to be talked about over the weekend, instead of being lost in the noise of the post match of the Mens game on Monday.

      To me, people are over the build up to these Origin (Mens) matches – you only have to look at the lack of content and interaction on this site regarding Origin II compared to Origin I. People are still interested in the match, and the noise will ramp up post match but I think we are over all the made up story lines etc. So I think there is a real opportunity for the Womens match to get alot of viewers tonight (and the weather looks like it will be kind) and the full weekend to not just be part of the conversation, but lead the footy conversation.

      • June 22nd 2018 @ 8:00am
        Justin Kearney said | June 22nd 2018 @ 8:00am | ! Report

        Agree with all of that.

        Women’s origin deserves its own spotlight and will get lost in the hysteria over the men’s game if played on the same day.

        Besides. This way we get Friday night footy!

        • June 23rd 2018 @ 11:07am
          Michael Gannon said | June 23rd 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          Was it free entry last night like the AFL Women comp? Good numbers for Origin.

          • June 23rd 2018 @ 11:08am
            Cathar Treize said | June 23rd 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

            No, don’t quote me but I think it was $15 & $10 tickets with kids free

            • June 23rd 2018 @ 11:26am
              Michael Gannon said | June 23rd 2018 @ 11:26am | ! Report

              Thought so.

    • June 22nd 2018 @ 9:27am
      Forty Twenty said | June 22nd 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      Stand alone at Bear Park is the best idea.

      You mention the lack of interest by fans for three grades in a row at NRL Mary I’d suspect more people would watch the three grades play in a row if it was on a regular basis on a Sunday arvo like it used to be but those days are gone forever it seems. You would get to know the players better back then and see some play reserves then 1sts on the same day. Phil Blake was a prime example.

      Fans had a lot more connection to the lower grades in years gone by because they would get to see them every second week at home and you understood that one was reserve grade and the other one was under 21’s and they were both the same club as 1st grade.

      One great plus for womans league is the fact that Touch Footy and Oz tag have been strong for years and the skills transfer well into league.

      • Columnist

        June 22nd 2018 @ 9:35am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | June 22nd 2018 @ 9:35am | ! Report

        Forty Twenty you raise a fair point. If you are going to do three grades it would work on a Sunday – but it wouldn’t on a Thursday night, or a Friday night… so it needs to be done at certain times and targeted – then I think you have more potential for it to work!

      • Roar Guru

        June 22nd 2018 @ 11:15am
        BA Sports said | June 22nd 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

        Off topic, but an interesting hypothetical – I wonder what footy would have looked like back in the day when it was three grades – if social media and internet forums had been around/more prevalent. I reckon the ref’s would cop a lot less bashing because so much more conversation time would have been spent between supporters on topics like “When is Brian Smith gong to give Steve Witt a go?!” – C’mon Mary – I know you heard that conversation among members in the Western Terrace back in the day… 🙂

    • June 22nd 2018 @ 10:48am
      Big daddy said | June 22nd 2018 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      If you asked the women they would probably prefer to play as a curtain raiser .
      At least it would give them a reason to feel as though they were part of the big picture.
      Same as the resident’s match ( not sure where this being played or when).
      A stand alone match for SOO on Sunday night when they could have had the opportunity to play it at 3pm.
      The NRL have sold out to the broadcaster on this so why would you expect them to do the ladies any favours.

    • Roar Rookie

      June 22nd 2018 @ 11:39am
      James Ditchfield said | June 22nd 2018 @ 11:39am | ! Report

      I think having the women’s origin game as a standalone fixture provides it with the spotlight it deserves. If it were played as an opener to the men’s game, it will be overlooked and won’t be given much attention. Playing it on a separate day at a different venue will also reflect the strength of the women’s game, to whatever level that may be, and if North Sydney Oval has an impressive crowd, then the players will feel more enthusiastic knowing that fans bought tickets specifically to see them play. And it will give reason for those in power to continue supporting the women’s game and it’s development. For the women’s game to gain traction and momentum going forward, it should be taken out from under the shadow of one of the biggest sporting events on the Australian calendar.

    • Roar Guru

      June 22nd 2018 @ 12:11pm
      Wayne said | June 22nd 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

      Stand alone fixture, or even have the Mens game as the Curtain Raiser to the Women (you would need to play Mens in Afternoon time slot).

    • June 22nd 2018 @ 12:37pm
      no one in particular said | June 22nd 2018 @ 12:37pm | ! Report

      Let it stand alone and gouge the interest levels, then make a decision

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