TOMORROW night some 90,000 sport-loving Australians are expected to descend upon the MCG in what is undoubtedly the NRL’s best chance in decades (perhaps ever) to penetrate deep into AFL-fortified heartland.
On the eve of one of the most important nights in rugby league’s history the NRL’s greatest export – State of Origin football – has been exposed (again) as the complete farce that it really is.
State of Origin’s tagline of ‘mate against mate, state against state’ is a brilliant one.
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It evokes deep-seeded emotional responses from passionate ‘state-triotic’ league fan who want nothing more than to see their home-grown heroes gain them bragging rights for an entire year in a glorious furnace of sporting battle.
The problem is, half their ‘heroes’ aren’t home grown.
State of Origin footy is anything but.
Take the latest mockery of leagues ‘pinnacle’ – the Sims brothers.
Six weeks ago former Cowboys come Knights backrower Tariq Sims was playing for Country Origin in an attempt to win a place in the team he has coveted since he was a young boy – the NSW Origin team.
He is the Blues 19th man for tomorrow night’s game.
In a great family effort, his brother Korbin is 20th man – but for the other team!
That’s right, two brothers born and raised in Gerringong NSW have been named in opposing state sides.
How can this still be happening?
For those that aren’t familiar, the rules that govern eligibility are amazingly complex for a game that uses the word ‘origin’.
They range from where a player went to school, where they payed majority of their junior footy, where they first played rep footy and where they have spent most of their life from age 13!
Like his brother Tariq, Korbin played his junior footy for the Gerringong Lions and Wests Panthers.
So clearly, the word ‘origin’ has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Anyone heard of a player called Greg Inglis.
Inglis was born in and grew up in Macksville NSW, playing junior footy for the Bowraville Tigers and his first game of senior footy at age 16 for Hunter Sports High School.
You can’t get much more sky-blue than that!
We all know which state Inglis calls home now though.
The NRL have a big problem.
You cannot sell a game on the ‘state versus state’ slogan and then have relaxed rules that allow people to play for any state they wish, or indeed brothers to play for different states.
It destroys the tribalism that is at the very heart of why Origin football is so successful.
If State of Origin as a concept is to be respected by league lovers and embraced by the rest of the country, the rules must be as simple as ‘were you born in QLD or NSW?’
…at least then Queensland could legitimately claim that underdog tag they love so much.
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