With the 2021 Indigenous round just behind us, and Game 1 of 2021 Origin now tantalisingly close, what better time to consider what an all-time Indigenous State of Origin challenge would look like.
Here are two teams made up of Australian Indigenous players who have represented their states in Origin.
1. Matt Bowen (ten Origins and two Tests): One of the most exciting broken-field runners of all time, and a prolific try scorer.
2. Dale Shearer (27 Origins and 21 Tests): A complete footballer, and versatile enough to have played every position in the Queensland back line except halfback.
3. Justin Hodges (24 Origins and 13 Tests): Played every Origin game as if it was a personal grudge match, and it often was.
4. Steve Renouf (11 Origins and 11 Tests): A silky smooth and elusive ball runner with too much pace for most opponents.
5. Dane Gagai (16 Origins and seven Tests so far): A prolific try scorer and tough competitor who saves his best for the maroon jersey.
6. Greg Inglis (32 Origins and 39 Tests): Hailing from NSW, Inglis played fullback, centre and wing for Queensland and totally dominated his opposition nearly every time he took the field.
7. Johnathan Thurston (37 Origins and 38 Tests): The most outstanding Indigenous player to take the Origin stage, and he finished his Origin career with a ridiculous win ratio of 65 per cent.
8. Arthur Beetson (captain) (one Origin and 29 Tests): Rugby league immortal. Only played the one Origin but that was enough to ensure the success of the interstate battle forever more. Without peer as a front rower and leader.
9. Scott Prince (five Origins and four Tests): Better known as a clever halfback but has the skills to fill in capably at dummy half.
10. Sam Backo (seven Origins and six Tests): A passionate player who never took a backward step on the field and had a habit of scoring tries.
11. Sam Thaiday (29 Origins and 34 Tests): One of the best Queensland forwards of the modern era, who delighted in the Origin battle.
12. David Fifita (three Origins so far): A gifted attacking player who is almost impossible to contain when he puts his mind to it. Destined to become a Queensland Origin legend.
13. Gorden Tallis (17 Origins and 13 Tests): An aggressive player for the full 80 minutes who loved to dominate the opposition, both with ball in hand and with his destructive defence.
New South Wales
1. David Peachey (one Origin): A scintillating, naturally gifted athlete who liked nothing better than running the ball from deep in his own territory. A prolific try scorer in the NRL.
2. Josh Addo-Carr (nine Origins and two Tests so far): Currently the number one winger in the game. A speed machine and prolific try scorer at all levels of the game.
3. Steve Ella (seven Origins and five Tests): Ella was a brilliant attacking player with electric acceleration that often left the defence floundering in his wake.
4. Latrell Mitchell (four Origins and four Tests so far): A dangerous attacking weapon who knows how to put his winger in the clear. Mitchell is hard to stop, and delights in strong defensive plays of his own.
5. John Ferguson (eight Origins and three Tests): There have been very few wingers to play the game who can claim to be better than Ferguson. Fast, elusive and a prolific try scorer.
6. Cliff Lyons (six Origins and six Tests): One of the best five-eighths to play the game. Lyons had the opposition guessing for over 15 years and his try assist count is off the scale.
7. Adam Reynolds (two Origins so far): A soon-to-be-departing Souths legend who knows how to steer his team around, and one of the best goal kickers in the NRL.
8. Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (four Origins and four Tests): A big, hard-running weapon who loved the contact, and never backed off.
9. Nathan Peats (three Origins): A very good dummy half at his peak and one of the best defenders in the game.
10. Andrew Fifita (ten Origins and 15 Tests so far): Fifita was built for the rough and tumble of Origin and when he was in the mood, there was no more dominant player on the field.
11. Wade Graham (six Origins and eight Tests so far): A tough and clever forward also blessed with the ball skills and kicking game of a halfback.
12. Greg Bird (18 Origins and 17 Tests): A destructive player in every sense, who was equally at home either in the back row or at five-eighth. A much feared NSW player.
13. Laurie Daley (captain) (23 Origins and 21 Tests): A Canberra legend and one of the great players of the 1990s. Daley had everything – speed, power, footwork, skill and passion. One of NSW’s greatest Origin players.
Unfortunately, this game will only ever be played on paper, so who wins?
The stats show that the Queensland team have double the number of Origin games under their belt. And how many of the NSW squad would replace their Queensland counterparts?
Probably only Daley to lock in place of Tallis, with Tallis shifting to the second row instead of David Fifita.
So it looks like a Queensland victory for me. What do you think?
One thing’s for sure, it would be a great game, and neither side would die wondering with the ball in their hands.