Off the Wall

It is hardly surprising that the media focus in the run up to Origin One has been on how important it is for the NSW Blues to end the Maroons series winning run.

But there are a couple of other reasons why it is important for the game.

The game will be shown live in Melbourne on Channel Nine - something which only happens three or four times a season.

One of the "excuses" given for the failure of the game to make the expected impact in Melbourne in the last decade has been a lack of media "exposure". Well the exposure in the last month or so could hardly have been greater - though it could have been more favourable - but if the rule that "any coverage is good coverage" in AFL heartland holds true the game should rate well in Melbourne on Wednesday night.

The attendance will also be of interest. It needs to be close to an 80,000 capacity - given the higher attendances at Sydney NRL matches so far this season.

We received bit of a reality check on Friday night. A week after everyone was doing cartwheels after a Sydney game drew over 37,000, the AFL match between Geelong and Collingwood drew a capacity MCG crowd - 88,000!

The other reason why Sydney fans need to pack out the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday night is that we don't give the ARL/NRL hierarchy any more reasons to take Origin matches away from the Origin states!

The integrity of State of Origin requires it to be a level playing field - two matches in Queensland one year, and two in New South Wales the next.

After 87 Origin games, the number of points scored by each side is extraordinarily close...just 27 points separates them. The Maroons have won 44, the Blues 41, and there have been two drawn games.

The fact that Queensland has won the last four series in a row should not detract from just how close the contest has been since its inception.

State of Origin is unquestionably one of the games treasures. It's integrity needs to be preserved.

Venues should not be hawked around in the shameful way the ARU and the NZRU are prepared to shop the Bledisloe Cup around to the highest overseas bidder.

Playing State of Origin in Melbourne is no more than a money making or money raking exercise. The suggestion that it might even be played in New Zealand - if the dollars are right - surely cannot be taken seriously.

The other factor that will be watched by the games administrators on Wednesday night is how the game rates in Brisbane. So far this season free to air viewing numbers in Brisbane are down around 12 per cent. Given that the post 2012 rights negotiations will be in part influenced by the 2010 ratings, a good figure in Brisbane on Wednesday night is vital.

The media coverage in the lead up to game one has been strong.

A full house, a record television audience, and a great contest are all that is now needed!

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