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Origin eats the NRL but what are you gonna do?

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Expert
7th June, 2019
25
1265 Reads

So you’ve got this national footy competition, see, which runs for 25 rounds and 30 weeks with 16 teams, and it’s been going like this since 1999 and a bit before that in other configurations, and it’s been really quite successful.

People love it. People hold tribal allegiance – the best kind of allegiance – to the teams and consume the game in large numbers through eyeballs on televisions and purchase of season tickets and merchandise and so many thermos-smuggled hot dogs.

Bottom line: people dig the National Rugby League of Australia in big numbers, and no argument.

But then after 11 rounds of this crackerjack sports league it is – get this – lessened by another little league, a three-match super-series of matches between representatives of the two states that largely (like 98 per cent) consume said national sports league.

And so popular – and thus valuable – is this extra little series to “the game” that the teams in the original completion willingly offer up their employees as fodder for it.

It’s seen as necessary evil, collateral damage – just how it rolls in greatest game of all rugby league, at least how we do it in the Oz.

And there’s nothing really like it in world sport.

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North American basketball and baseball have “All Stars” games but they’re exhibitions. They don’t even fire blanks. They’re eunuchs. Giggle games.

The closest might be the Premier Leagues and Series A of European football in which the greatest teams from these mighty national leagues come together in European Cup competitions to compete among ridiculous money.

The English Premier League has the FA Cup and if your team goes deep in that you might expect a little bit of … degradation.

But European football teams have economies the size of Luxembourg’s and can replace an international striker with an international striker.

In Australian rugby league – a rather more physical affair than association football you could assert without ambiguity – the State of Origin series beats up on the season proper like a birthday boy on a choc-filled piñata.

State of Origin takes 40-plus of the game’s best players – it’s showcase stars – and beats them up. Meanwhile, the rest of the comp limps on without them in rounds that are cut in half.

While Origin footy is, of course, excellent rugby league and the game the other night was without question fast and pulsating and tops, it does rather beg the question, as it does each year, is there not another way?

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“The game” – one assumes a conglomeration of minds in NRL, ARLC, QRL, NSWRL, RLPA and whatever other officials there are in the alphabet soup – has come up with a standalone Sunday evening for Origin Game 2 in Perth, and it’ll be interesting to see how that rolls for the game’s major stakeholder, the one-eyed all-seeing spider god that is television.

We know this: Game 2 will rate through the roof. It’s Sunday night and that’s when people watch television.

What television will tell us, though, is if their numbers are down because there’s no club rugby league upon people’s televisions.

Will television be able to put something on television other than rugby league that will compete for advertising space with AFL?

Or are rugby league people not going to watch that either way?

Could Channel Nine on a Friday night, say, “beat” whatever’s on Friday night in Sydney and Brisbane with … I dunno, My Farmer’s Kitchen Wants A Wife, or whatever confected filth these people are pumping out into the ether and calling entertainment?

Cody Walker

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

As Uncle Bunny said in Once Were Warriors, stuffed if I know bro. Stuffed if I know.

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But clearly the spider god is willing to find out.

And the National Rugby League competition will be beaten up a little less by dint of its superstar drawcards actually – how about that – playing in it.

Seems a pretty good thing. Balance. A meeting of minds in the middle. Or something I dunno.

But the State of Origin killer whale whacks the competition that it draws players from, and one standalone weekend for it would appear to better than none.

Mind you, it didn’t hurt the Canberra Raiders who toweled up a Wests Tigers side who’d had two weeks off.

Canberra had a little bevy of Origin players backing up and beat up on the Tigers like the birthday kid on a piñata.

Earlier, the Newcastle Knights beat South Sydney with Kalyn Ponga in a polo shirt in the coach’s box.

The Bunnies were missing their No.7 and three men were backing up from Wednesday night.

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But their list, on paper – at home – beats the Ponga-free Knights in every multi on Sportsbet’s servers.

Can’t blame Origin for that.

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Though it would’ve been good to see Ponga. That kid’s freakin’ spectacular.

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Anyways. There’s two split rounds in season ’19 and you can say this about it: it’s better than three split rounds.

Have no split rounds?

Few years ago a mate of mine called Wozza (because that’s his name when you shorten it from Warren in the Australian way) knocked out a blueprint for a competition in which there was an entire other cup competition while the Origin series ran over six weeks.

There’d be Test matches and a round robin comp with everyone else in the middle of it, and I wrote it about it in these very e-pages.

But it doesn’t matter how much you would nod along to it, the alphabet soup people weren’t going to implement anything like it because they know you, dear leaguie, don’t like change.

Not big change, anyway. You say you do but you don’t.

If they halted the NRL for six weeks and played three Origins and a whole other comp and some Test matches afterwards – and then restarted the NRL – too many people wouldn’t like it because too many people are afraid to suck it and see.

Plus you’re going to watch the NRL as it is anyway.

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Because, you poor damned fool for love, you love it.