Carting it up with Stevo

Lucky the Titans are just around the corner

The lead up to State of Origin Game 2 has highlighted the greatest benefit the new Gold Coast franchise will bring to Rugby League. Back in 2004 the fight to gain the 16th place in the NRL became quite ruthless. When Wellington, Gosford and the Gold Coast all put their submissions before the NRL, all three seemed to have a decent case for inclusion. Gosford had a great stadium, solid funding and local support. The Kiwis hoped to expand the game to a new market. The Gold Coast however promised one thing the others couldn?t match - to help create depth for the Queensland Maroons.

The Queensland team has always been the underdog in Origin largely because they have less players to choose from. The Australian sporting public loves nothing more than supporting the underdog, that is of course, if there is a chance this underdog can win. The ARL has been doubly blessed throughout the last 26 years because Queensland has not only constantly had their backs to the wall due to a lack of depth, but they have also regularly won. Even Blues fans would admit this kind of battle against the odds has made Origin what it is today, and ensured it has become one the nation?s premier annual sporting events.

Things however seemed to have changed recently. The Blues have won the last four series in a row. Having one team dominate at Origin level isn?t generally a cause for concern, Queensland having won three consecutive series? between 1987 and 1989. It only becomes a difficulty when the dominant team is NSW.

The problem with having one dominant team in any duel is that it exposes the weaknesses of its opposition. When the weakness is, as in the Maroons case, a lack of depth, it can make it difficult for fans to get too excited about the series. That?s not to say the Origin concept may die, just that it could be hard to hold on to some of the fringe supporters that gravitate towards big events such as Origin.

Ultimately, an Origin clash should not just be strongly contested, but selections must be well earned. With no disrespect to Jacob Lillyman or Adam Mogg, no one would have expected these players to push for selection this year, and their form hasn?t exactly been dazzling. Such selections make Origin seem a bit too easy to get into.

And this is where the Gold Coast Titans will save the day. While they have mainly signed established first-graders from south of he border, behind the scenes positive moves are being made. The team has already established relationships with some Queensland Cup clubs, and signed on some of these teams emerging talent. They have also set up a youth academy that has been guiding talented young Queenslanders for a year already. We may not see these players reach first grade next year, but in the years to come local talent will form the basis of Titan?s campaigns. And if only 4 or 5 of these players become regular first graders in the next two seasons, that will be enough to provide future Maroons teams with additional options in the selection room. Remember this is a region that has produced players such as Stuart Kelly, Preston Campbell, Scott Sattler, Ben Ikin, Kevin Campion and Marcus Bai in the past ten years.

So for those who feel Origin has lost its lustre, take heart that a strong Maroons team is just around the corner (that is of course if they don?t win on Wednesday!).