Punch: play Origin in Melbourne every year
Despite the seemingly inoperable state that Rugby League can appear to be in at times, the advent of the three-match State of Origin manages to redeem it as an amazing sporting spectacle year after year. It is also a venue in which players are still given the green light to punch on.
Although nothing quite like this anymore (keep an eye on the Blue’s 13 whose idea of tackling is just to come in swining along with a young Paul Vautin)
This year the first match is in Melbourne and some deluded weirdos argue (see below) today that Origin has no place being played in AFL’s heartland. But I say let Origin be staqed in whatever city can guarantee a packed stadium of enthusiastic fans engaging in the lost art of interstate hatred. Furthermore if Melbourne wants an annual Origin clash we should give them one.
For starters Melbourne is great city to play just about anything. While I have my doubts about Etihad Stadium (watching a game there always feels strangely like you’re watching from a television studio rather than a ground) the game is likely to go near a sell-out.
The fact that one of, if not the best, NRL teams is now from Melbourne not only means that local league fans have something to sink their teeth into but the advertisement of Origin could foster more interest in the Storm and local league.
There’s an argument that the periodic Melbourne fixture actually favours the Queenslanders in that firstly; Melbournians need little excuse to rip into any NSW team and secondly; the local crop of incredible Storm players like Greg Inglis and Cameron Smith means local fans favour the Maroons.
Well so be it. If this is the case it will change with the make-up of the Storm teams over the years. Personally as a Wests Tigers fan I’ve started going for New Zealand against Australia because of Benji Marshall.
None of this seems to have worried NSW and Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy who argues that the Melbourne fixture should be a permanent one. And why not? It would take the yearly advantage one state gains from two home games out of the equation.
Victorians also love Origin because it reminds them of what the AFL Origin clashes used to be like. Ironically it was Rugby League who originally copied the Australian Football Origin model to breathe life into its interstate clashes.
But the fact is that State of Origin hardly ever fails to deliver as a game and that makes it worth hosting pretty much anywhere (except of course in America following the disastrous 1987 experiment in California). It makes Super 14 look some kind of odd mating ritual and is played with a passion that AFL origin would kill for. Just check out Queensland’s amazing finish to game 1 1994 resulting in one of the best ever lines in sports commentating from Ray “Rabbits” Warren: “That’s not a try, that’s a miracle”.
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