State of Origin is a concept that, more often than not, has stuck in the minds of the average Western Australian all too short.
I was lucky to be invited to Sydney last week to cover the match and enjoy Origin Day in a rugby league heartland.
Full disclosure, competition has never been my forte – I’m much more attached to the union, having grown up in the early 2000s during the Wallabies’ peak post-1999 World Cup win.
Origin has always been heralded as one of Australia’s biggest sporting rivalries, and as I discovered, you have to see it to believe it.
The broadcast does not do justice to the spectacle. It is an explosion of color, a never-ending wave of noise, and a visceral display of passion and pettiness.
As someone who’s seen a handful of Origin games on the box before, it’s best to know this life so you can soak in the atmosphere to understand what the game means.
Three hours before kick-off, the Olympic site housing the Accor Stadium changed from a quiet, secluded sector to a hive of activity, with gamblers heading out early to soak up the pre-game atmosphere at the food trucks and drinking establishments—Holes around the stadium.
Camera IconSYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – JUNE 08: Cameron Munster of the Maroons is tackled during match one of the 2022 State of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at Accor Stadium on June 8, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images) Credit: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
It may have been a cold, heady winter’s night, with temperatures as high as 8C, but you hardly noticed it once inside the stadium, sheltered from the warmth of the packed crowd.
The sea of sky-blue fans turned into a tidal wave of noise in the stadium, with the stadium’s acoustics accentuating the decibel level to a height I wasn’t prepared for.
The match was a slow-burning, ebb-and-flow clash that came down to the final game, won by a fledgling Queensland team after a 10-minute volley of tries and a solid defense – everything you could want from an Origin clash.
Not only has my trip to Sydney excited me for game two in Perth in a few weeks – and I hear ticket sales are going well – it also makes me long for the days of yore.
All it took was to witness a rugby league Origin clash up close to leave me pining for the return of an AFL Origin Series.
The one-off Victoria v Dream Team and All-Stars games in 2020 and 2008 and the AFLW release in 2017 have shown the appetite among footy fans for a regular iteration of the format. If there’s one thing we have learned over the years, Western Australians don’t care what the Eastern states think of us.
State versus state pride is something we take very seriously here. I’ve seen Dockers fans proclaim that they’d be happy to win a West Coast final if it means beating a team from the Eastern States – and the chance to beat Victoria and South Australia is about as alluring when it comes.
It was great to watch like Cameron Munster, Valentine Holmes, Dane Gagai, and Daly Cherry-Evans join forces to take New South Wales down in their backyard was grain (WA winners with 3 points). Credit: Unknown/The West Australian
Now imagine how good it would be to see Lance Franklin, Jeremy McGovern, Patrick Cripps, and Stephen Coniglio come together in the gold and black to beat the Vics at the MCG – just writing that sentence makes me smile.
There are hurdles to overcome before Origin can return to the AFL, namely how to fit it into an already overcrowded calendar as players are tied to their clubs from January to September each year.
And I’m sure the clubs would be understandably upset if their players returned with serious injuries.
But after witnessing the passion of an Origin clash up close, the AFL would be mad not to consider replicating it annually.
If they aren’t actively looking for ways to reintegrate Origin into the football calendar, the AFL is doing both the fans and itself a disservice.