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State of Origin reimagined

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Roar Rookie
12th August, 2019
25

In my youth I had several epiphanies that could have made me rich if I had been more of a doer than a thinker back then, so you’ll understand that nowadays I put my random musings to paper.

These ideas probably won’t make me rich, but I need to get them out of my head so that other possibly more fruitful seeds may grow.

This article is one of a series comprising logical and/or left-field responses to challenges facing the game. Some of these articles will form the basis of proposals and suggestions to the NRL, so your thoughts are appreciated in helping me achieve some clarity. There are times I may be missing the mark, so constructive, realigning, guiding and thoughtful feedback is more than welcome.

Queensland Maroons

(Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

But there will also be many other times I will just be right, so live with it!

State of Origin reimagined
Yes, it’s a little late, but I’ve been busy – and anyway, I’ll point out some that some current players and journalists, among others, have similar thoughts.

Years ago, when State of Origin was new, players were removed from their teams for basically the Origin period. Anyone claiming injury was stood down from their club game. That was right, and now is wrong and there are many reasons for this.

The death of this omission approach came from some influential coaches and clubs, who incidentally were stacked with Origin reps, starting a complaint campaign based on how poorly they dealt with losing their stars, and when this didn’t take off as fast as they’d have liked, they started the misguided ‘fans miss out seeing their club stars thus devaluing the competition’ campaign.

The league crumbled and split rounds were introduced. Unfortunately this counteracted one of their biggest weapons – supporting the salary cap, which now isn’t working properly, interestingly enough.

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Put simply, the salary cap is designed to spread talent and keep the competition fair. That isn’t working, as evidenced by many of the same teams in and out of the finals, and it’s hard to police.

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One of the greatest opportunities to assist the concept of levelling the playing field is to have the teams lose their talent for four to six games a year – Christian Welch is one of the people who agrees with this sentiment. This is a big enough portion of time to give lesser teams a game at an equal level with the more successful clubs but not big enough that a smart and prepared club can’t cover it adequately.

The competition loses around 34 players, which should be spread over 16 clubs, not half a dozen. The solution is that if you stack your team, you lose player power for a month, which will stop some of the stacking.

The split round system creates a great deal of inequality with the draw and opens the league and system to misuse. Who decides which teams play at what times?

One of the misguided commentaries is about clubs losing their players and reduced crowd interest and gate taking at their games. I get this, I do, but it’s something a left-field marketing campaign can answer. Some positive and glass-half-full could get around it thinking.

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NSW Blues

(Matt King/Getty Images)

Every club has a young gun or two who only gets let out at Origin time. We need to celebrate this. The NRL needs to put a positive spin on this and, again, it’s interesting that the league has put out an article to this effect.

There are ways beyond marketing to attract people to games. You could take them exclusively to the smaller grounds in Sydney to enhance atmosphere and enjoyment and then reduce the entry fee or introduce family deals or two-for-one deals. You could then flood the grounds with kids activities – jumping castles, clowns – to create a carnival atmosphere. We are here for the game, not for the name.

Anyway, getting back to the rostering issue, these days many clubs, including some coached by those who started the gripe, rest their Origin players. For player wellbeing durability we shouldn’t be overburdening them – we claim these guys are so important to the club and game and then burn them out and cut their careers short.

During the Origin period playing State of Origin should be all we expect from these guys, so we may as well take it out of the coaches and clubs’ hands and make the right call.

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So what is a positive solution given that ‘international round’ has brought its own list of benefits?

Let’s use this year as the example time frame:

  • State of Origin teams of 18 are picked at the end of Round 11. I would suggest that each state picks a squad of 20 and uses only these players – it puts a bit more into the dynamics and coach smarts.
  • Round 12 should be a full round, no byes. These 36 to 40 players don’t participate in the round as they prepare for Game 1.
  • State of Origin Game 1 is played on the Wednesday after Round 12.
  • Round 13 is another full round. The State of Origin squads are ineligible to participate.
  • The weekend that should be Round 14 is deferred as a bye round. Instead the international Tests are played and State of Origin Game 2 is played on the following Sunday.
  • The next weekend is Round 14 and the State of Origin squads are again illegible to play.
  • State of Origin Game 1 is played on the Wednesday after Round 14.
  • The following weekend is Round 15. For the sake of player wellbeing the State of Origin squads shouldn’t participate, but I’m sure I’ll be howled down if someone has barely seen the field or really wants to play.
  • If the Origin period is extended, then clubs lose their players and the rounds are played in full.

This approach balances the importance of State of Origin with the importance of the competition proper. By removing players we uphold the importance and focus on State of Origin and in this way. The squads only miss three to four competition games with their club.

Having a short and distinct Origin period ensures the competition is valued as a competition, not just for the name players, and a fairly decent marketing company should be able to sell this as a positive.