Yes, the NRL should look to expand the greatest and most successful sporting mini-series throughout our region of the world.
Let’s take Origin to the next level. All the best rugby league players from the Australian / Pacific region should be made eligible for selection and playing in the series if they have the ability!
State of Origin should be rebranded “The Origin Series” and expanded to three teams. Yes three teams!
The three teams playing in a round robin event with each team playing one home and one away game.
The two teams finishing at the top of the table after the round robin will play off in the Origin Series Final.
The final will be hosted by the winner of the round robin series. Wins, then points for against will apply to the standings.
The three teams and the players who would be eligible to be selected under strictly enforced guidelines from the following countries/states are as listed below.
The Blues including players from NSW, ACT, Fiji and Tonga.
The Kiwis including players from New Zealand.
The Maroons including players from Queensland, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and any other Australian state or territory.
Whilst players will play in an expanded origin series, strict eligibility guidelines would dictate what country they represent at World Cup level. E.g. If Semi Radradra was playing in the NRL, he would be eligible to play for the Blues but would only be eligible to play for Fiji at Test level.
Why expand the series?
There are a range of reasons to expand the series.
To ensure we have the best players playing at the highest level without comprising Origin integrity.
To increase rugby league interest in New Zealand and other Pacific Island nations where rugby union has traditionally dominated.
How good would it have been to see Sonny Bill Williams or Benji Marshall leading a strong Kiwi team taking on one of those great Queensland sides captained by Cameron Smith in an Origin final over the last ten years.
Instead of a weak Blues team backing up for a dead rubber with the strong likelihood of a 20-point Queensland win and a series whitewash, every game in the expanded series will have some bearing as to who plays in the final or who takes the Origin Series title.
For a club fan, there nothing more frustrating than one of your stars getting injured while playing in a dead rubber Origin match.
Can we accommodate three qualifying games and one final Origin game in a season? Yes we can, but games will need to be played on Sunday night not mid-week so players will have a minimum of a seven-day break prior to the game.
The Sunday timeframe makes it easier for fans to get to the stadiums and players are not then being expected to back up in 2-3 days after the Origin game like they are being in its current format. No player will be playing more than three games.
How will Queensland and NSW supporters feel about having out of towners playing for their state/team? I can only guess it won’t, because not much has been said or done about over the last 40 years.
Israel Folau or James Tamou are just two examples of so many ex-pats who have played Origin with absolutely no affiliation to that state team whatsoever.
This might even be an opportunity to implement a marquee player supplement payment to keep superstars in the NRL rather than losing them to overseas rugby clubs.
Who would not prefer for Radradra to be playing in the NRL and playing in Origin than playing for a French rugby club?
Some additional dollars and the opportunity to play Origin might just do the trick. Increasing the interest in rugby league in Australia and overseas will result increased revenue opportunities for our great game.