I was sitting at my keyboard trying to think of what State of Origin meant to me so that I could write about it and I came up with the following:
It?s important to me but it doesn?t quite engender the same passion that a Wests Tigers match can, and it never has. Don?t get me wrong, I love State of Origin and I dislike losing to Queensland but there just isn?t quite the same personal intensity there.
I tried to work out why I felt that way and in a nutshell came up with one definitive reason; I?m not a Queenslander.
Queenslanders have a passion for State of Origin that I don?t think I?m capable of reproducing. I have concluded that it?s all down to the circumstances prior to the inception of State of Origin rather than a personal foible on my part.
State of Origin was spawned in an attempt to renew interest in the matches between NSW and Queensland. For two decades up until 1980, interstate matches had been one-sided affairs due in no small part to Queensland?s stars playing for NSW against Queensland. Queensland won two matches in the final 11 years of the old system and won their last series in 1961. 20 years without a series win meant that when State of Origin was introduced in 1980, Queensland had 20 years of frustration, 20 years of lopsided score-lines and 20 years of embarrassment all pent-up and ready to burst forth in a shower of retribution. It wasn?t going to be elegant, it wasn?t going to be scientific but it was going to happen. And happen it did.
Queensland came out of the blocks like a steroid-fuelled Olympic sprinter and they belted NSW for the most part in the first 11 matches from 1980 to 1984, winning eight and losing only three. It took almost a generation in player terms before NSW finally won their first State of Origin series in 1985.
To be blunt, I believe that we in NSW assumed nothing would change even with the Queensland team bolstered by their qualified players from the NSWRL premiership. It took the best part of five years for NSW to realise the depth of enthusiasm and commitment that Queenslanders had for State of Origin and that those same attributes were required to be matched by NSW in order to compete with the dominating Queenslanders. NSW first hit the formula in 1985 on the back of a cheeky half-back named Steve Mortimer and we?ve lost and re-gained the formula many times since.
We New South Welshmen still maintain, just as we did in the early stages of State of Origin, that we have the superior players and that given an even show, we will win. But history is an unrelenting and stern teacher and we are slow learners, plus we?re quick to forget the lessons we?re taught. We?ve been smacked across the back of the head by her so often that for it not to have sunk in by now what it takes to win State of Origin is preposterous. Anything less than 100% commitment will mean capitulation at the hands of the Cane Toads.
Even today, there is still an air of superiority from NSW fans in regard to State of Origin, even when we lose. After winning the first match of the current series some fans were actually saying things like ?I hope Queensland win the second, to give us a decider?. Can anyone imagine a Queenslander saying that if they had won the first match?
No. They don?t say that, they can?t say that. It?s not part of their Origin psyche. They want to win, they want to win desperately and rub our noses in it.
NSW should dominate State of Origin. We have a vast number of players to choose from whereas Queensland are limited to a much smaller number of prospective players. It?s the Queenslander?s spirit, intensity and desire that brings them to the point where they compete on an equal footing with arguably the greatest on-paper team in the world, year after year.
And they?ve been doing it for 24 years.
I dips me lid to each and every one of them. It?s their enthusiasm and verve for State of Origin that has made it the number one Rugby League contest in the World today.
I?m obviously not a Queenslander, but occasionally on a Wednesday night in Winter, in the odd moment of weakness, I sometimes wish I was.
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