Off the Wall

State of Origin will survive the current Maroons dominant position - but it is dominance that is not without its problems for the greatest game of all.

One of the strengths of Origin football is that, over the 30 year span, the Maroons and the Blues have been close - close in games won, close in points scored, and close in series won.

The five year Maroons domination is, of course, without precedent.

What has to worry the game's administrators is that the Maroons dominant position is today significantly more pronounced than it has been either in the five series in a row the Maroons have won, or in the 30 year span of Origin.

This will present a significant test for viewer numbers, not to mention crowd numbers, in New South Wales, and in Sydney in particular.

Last night's lopsided win unquestionably detracted from the quality of the match - especially if you are only an occasional viewer of rugby league. The tougher than usual clashes helped offset that, but when one team is so clearly dominant from the opening minutes the spectacle diminishes...especially if you are a Blues supporter.

The problem for the game is that match 3 in Sydney won't just not be a sell out, its television ratings are surely going to diminish.

The ratings benchmark for Origin is extraordinarily high. Each year the three Origin games rate in the top 10 programmes on free to air television - something the AFL can only dream about.

Origin is also shown at prime time viewing. The advertising spend is about as high as it gets.

While poor attendance and ratings for Origin Three will be quite understandable - they won't help the free to air and pay television negotiations soon to get under way.

Watching the game from the Lang Park grandstands last night a couple of things really stood out. The blues seemed to totally lack a strategy - whereas the Maroons clearly had a defined strategy, which with a couple of exceptions, was rigidly enforced.

The morale of the Maroons from the opening moments was so obviously superior to that of the Blues.

But there is another factor which perhaps is the main difference between the teams.

The Maroons are highly organised, well coached and well managed. And they are generally well disciplined, with the notable exception of the third game in 2009.

We now know that two Blues players missed the team bus to the ground last night...and had to get a taxi to Lang Park.

The Maroons have had discipline problems in the past - but there is no way the Maroons to would head off to the ground with a couple of players missing!

Craig Bellamy took what amounted to half a day away from training to fly to Melbourne from Brisbane to watch the Storm play the Roosters on Monday night - and the result cannot have done anything for his confidence.

The Maroons coach does not have divided rugby league interests - his Blues counterpart does even if his team is no longer playing for points.

The final factor is that, man for man, the Maroons simply have a better team, and a significantly better one. Retirements and code defections have not seen the team performance diminish. That just cannot be said for the Blues.

As I said Origin will survive - but one of its greatest strengths, a close competition, is under real threat.

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