In the six years since he made his NRL debut as a teenager, Tom Trbojevic has only taken to the field six times without his brother Jake.
The relocation of Origin I to Townsville, and the surrounding excitement, has served to once more demonstrate the emotional power that the series has.
State of Origin 1 coverage
» REPORT: NSW rewrite history with 50-6 obliteration
» TALKING POINTS: How can Queensland possibly recover?
» Tom Trbojevic named man of the match
» Origin 1 as it happened; play-by-play blog
» State of Origin results
» Full Origin 2021 series fixtures
At very short notice, the game has sold out, hotels are snapped up, and sales of XXXX are surely through the roof.
From a purely financial point of view, Origin is a cash cow for a sport that was just last year in the financial doldrums.
The $8 million incentive from the Palaszczuk government, plus the myriad of fees from state governments for previous hosting rights, demonstrates such prowess.
Origin is a potent weapon in the obsessively conflictual comparison to the AFL. It is by far the most-watched rugby league event in Australia, and one of the most viewed televisual events in general.
Is it feasible to further expand the concept, in all forms?
For the men, might we one day see the series expand to four or five games? Such a move wouldn’t be without its controversy.
There are already annual complaints about competitive integrity, with the best players plucked from league games for mid-week Origin.
But the NRL is a competition with a salary cap designed to ensure sporting meritocracy. There is no risk of relegation, and an end-of-season play-off system is used to crown the champions.
Players are not being lost to international duty, and the series brings in more attention (and cash) than the regular season games.
Panthers fans may lament their loss to the Tigers, but that is the sort of result that should satiate casual onlookers. For a competition with ideals of any of the 16 being able to triumph, it’s not to be dismissed.
We could have games in Sydney, Brisbane, a neutral location, and more outside of the capitals.
Newcastle was touted as a potential replacement this year, and it’s easy to see why. There’s room for temporary stands and, in line with the wishes of football fans from Newcastle Jets, safe standing sections could be utilised.
For big games, that could bring the capacity to that not far off of Suncorp, whilst allowing more relaxed viewing for other times.
But beyond the men, there exists an underutilised opportunity for Origin expansion within the women’s game. It was only brought under the umbrella in 2018, and still consists of just one game.
Especially with the lack of opportunity for meaningful and financially remunerative fixtures, surely Origin merits at least a two-game series. One game in each state, operating on an aggregate basis, would bring in a degree of fairness if nothing else.
A three-game series, with two-time home advantage rotated, or even taken to neutral venues, would also do the trick.
Double-headers with the men in Perth or Adelaide may seem attractive, but equally so would be the possibility of being trailblazers by taking it to Port Moresby.
Women’s Origin could take the sport to those areas without regular NRL access.
Places like Sunshine Coast this year, North Sydney in years gone by, or possibly country venues like Rockhampton, Wagga Wagga, Mackay and Coffs Harbour – all would appreciate the opportunity to watch a State of Origin game.
In the same vein, wheelchair rugby league offers similar opportunities. Coming into a World Cup year where the Wheelaroos have a decent chance of glory in Liverpool (north-west England, not west Sydney), there exist opportunities to bring the game to more than the 1000 who turned up for its previous and only iteration.
There’s the warm, fuzzy liberal motivation for such backing. Fairness, equality, opportunity, and all that.
But from a financial perspective, there are prizes to be had for those with a vision, a plan and long-term motivation. These are areas that, at the very least, merit investigation to determine their feasibility.
Rugby league has always had greater club following than representative attention. Unlike rugby union where allegiances and attention fall front and centre on national sides, league fans tend to pour their hearts and souls into their club.
This is in part because of the limited opportunities for expressions of representative pride in the sport.
State of Origin offers such an outlet, over a very limited number of occasions. Surely someone at the top is working out how more can be done to capitalise on this following.