Off the Wall

The doomsayers who were predicting the demise of state of origin rugby league have been proven wrong - and not for the first time.

The Maroons proved they are as classy an outfit as we have seen - but the Blues showed enough to offer real hope for the future. Rugby league is the winner from that.

It is impossible to over-state the importance of state of origin to the game, and the future of the game.

The origin matches are always in the top ten rating events - not a bad effort given the fact it is often not shown live outside New South Wales and Queensland!

But they are more than that - I know people, and I am sure you all know people, who take only a passing interest in the game, apart from origin time.

They are important - they add value to the marketability of rugby league, and not just when it comes to television rights value. Major sponsors - such as Telstra and Harvey Norman - look at the total marketplace when they choose between sponsoring league, and other codes.

The marketplace is today healthy for rugby league. But it cannot be taken for granted.

The push by the AFL into Western Sydney and the Gold Coast is in the end all about building the television audience base, and the sponsor base, for the code.

Origin is absolutely critical to rugby league remaining competitive in both markets at a time when pressure on the sponsorship dollar has never been greater, and when the television industry's profitability is not what it was even a few years ago.

So now it is back to the premiership - and one has to hope that the standard of football is as high as it was last night.

Unfortunately, and it may be a case of mid-season fatigue, the standard of football in recent weeks has been truly worrying.

Some games have really not been worthy of the codes premiership.

And I don't think the demand on origin players is the reason.

We have a demanding premiership, so wear and tear is always a problem. But this season, and more especially in the last 8-10 weeks, the general standard has been below what we expect.

But back to origin...Dean Bulldog Ritchie in the Telegraph describes this Maroons team as the best in the codes history - a big call.

I think we should settle for calling it the best in origin history. The teams that would rival it would have to include the great St George teams that won a record number of premierships in a row. That is a record which will never be equalled.

Let's accept it is a great team - one that presents a challenge that the Blues will have to be equally professional to defeat.

It is a challenge the NSWRL needs to start addressing today.

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