The Rugby Family Jewels

With State of Origin just around the corner, we once again have the opportunity to compare jewels in the respective rugby crowns.

Earlier this month, Clinton Schifcofske referred to the state of Queensland Rugby Union as being "unacceptable and downright disgusting."

The former Queensland rugby league full back and now Queensland rugby union back was referring to South Africa's Bulls 92-3 massacre of the Queensland Reds in the elite Super 14 series. As far as annual sporting events go, the Super 14 is held aloft as the jewel in rugby union's crown.

But there is no denying that a gulf exists in what is undoubtedly a lopsided contest. No matter what the union spin doctors conjure up, the fact remains that rugby union in Queensland is in dire straits.

On the surface, it appears that the Queensland Rugby Union is struggling with a lack of depth and embarrassing losses, and this is no overnight development. Meanwhile, the Queensland Rugby League appears to be going from strength to strength. This raises the question: is the QRU in danger of slipping into oblivion in the future? To speculate further, what positive effect, if any, will this have on the QRL?

It has happened before.

But first a little background...

The first New South Wales vs Queensland rugby match was played in Sydney in 1882. As expected, NSW won the first encounter. But the following year, the Queensland underdogs defeated the NSW 'mother colony' in Brisbane. The 1883 result put in motion a series of events which would see Australian Rules football lose its foothold in the northern colony, and give rise to rugby union in Queensland.

Matches between the colonies continued into the 1890s with NSW ultimately wearing the light blue jersey, and Queensland adopting the maroon jersey.

In 1908, rugby league was finally established in Sydney and the New South Wales Rugby League didn't waste any time in organising an interstate match. The first NSW vs Queensland rugby league clash took place in August 1908 at the Sydney Agricultural Ground.

Given that rugby league in Queensland was barely established, it was no surprise when the Blues thrashed the Maroons by 43-0. NSW continued to dominate and it wasn't until 1922, and after 22 attempts, that Queensland finally won an interstate rugby league clash, defeating NSW 25-9 at the Sydney Sports Ground. What followed was a period of success with the Queenslanders winning 17 out of 24 games between 1922-1928.

But herein lies the tale... Queensland's success in rugby league was largely due to the non-existence of rugby union in the 1920s. It is a little known fact that the rival rugby code folded during World War I and failed to rematerialise in Queensland until the 1930s, thus providing a platform for growth for rugby league in the sunshine state.

Nevertheless, the QRU eventually awoke from its slumber thereby creating a split in the player depth of Queensland, and the golden era of Maroon dominance in rugby league appeared to be over. To make matters worse, in 1931 a fissure appeared down the newly opened Pacific Highway and Queenslanders began heading south to join the more affluent NSWRL clubs.

It is now history that since the 1960s the QRL have fought to have home grown players represent their state, and this ideal was finally realised with the introduction of the State of Origin series in 1980. Now in it's third decade of competition, the series has drawn level with NSW and Queensland having won 38 games each.

Widely regarded as the most hotly contested rugby league series in the world, the annual State of Origin clashes recapture the passion of interstate rivalry which dates back to early colonial days when the other rugby code was the only show in town. It is without a doubt the pinnacle of an interstate competition which has its roots in generations past, and encompasses a heritage which was nutured by the QRL after rugby was abandoned by the QRU almost 100 years ago.

It is perhaps with some sense of reflection that the Queensland rugby union officials look back on what might have been, and the opportunities lost, when considering the state of their current Super 14 endeavours.

REF: History of the Pacific Highway History of NSW v Qld - RL1908.com Super 14 match review from Rugby Heaven State of Origin Results - LeagueUnlimited.com

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