The first State of Origin game was played in 1980 and, at the time, no one seriously thought that the concept would be a successful one. Imagine it, every year players from Queensland and New South Wales return to their home states, to form two formidable sides which will square-off in a three test series, and captures the attentions of the entire nation, dividing it down the middle like some sort of bizarre rugby census. ‘It’ll never work,’ critics said. They said that because on paper it sounds about as exciting as watching your favourite team play the local derby every week of the season. But it did work, it really worked. Now, against all the odds and all rugby-watching rationale, it’s the rugby league highlight of the year. And this is why you need to set your Sky Plus, find and online stream or just take the day off work on Wednesday to watch State of Origin. If I've not convinced you yet, then perhaps this handful of points may capture your imagination.
1. It’s the decider
The trouble with a three-Test tournament is that, obviously, it can all be over in two. Queensland have won 20 in the last 31 years and, moreover, New South Wales haven’t won one in the last six years. If you’re all about the underdog, NSW are the team for you. Both games so far have been close run things as Origin One finished 18-10 to Queensland and NSW won 16-12 in Origin Two to remain in contention.
2. Statistically more intense than Super League
Statistically there are have been around 10% more metres and tackles made and just under 10% fewer missed tackles across both origin games so far in comparison to the average Super League game. The scale of these games is huge. England take on the Exiles on the same day at The Galpharm and you should watch both if only to compare the stark contrast in atmosphere. 7,129 was the attendance figure for the last England outing at Langtree Park last month. Compare that to the Origin One turn out of 56,021 and the huge Origin Two crowd of 83,111 – more than watched the Challenge Cup final or the Super League Grand Final last year. Huge.
There are two referees in State of Origin, which might make you think that there are more penalties but this is not the case. The average Super League penalty count is currently 16, in Origin One only seven were conceded and eight in Origin Two. That’s fewer than a single average Super League game in both tests combined so far. Amazingly, having two referees seems to fuel more controversy than one and - amongst other instances - in game one NSW Ricky Stuart criticised the decision to allow a game changing 73rd minute Greg Inglis try, causing havoc amongst the press.
3. Queensland injuries could mean a more level playing field
If NSW are going to end Queensland’s winning streak, I’d say the time to do that is now. The list of injuries includes key players – Justin Hodges, Ashley Harrison, Ben Hannant, Sam Thaiday and, absolutely crucially, Billy Slater. Billy Slater has long since been hailed as the best full back in the world. Don’t get me wrong, Greg Inglis is a more than capable replacement – according to Fox Sports States he’s made the more breaks and tackle busts than any other NRL full back this season - but ideally Queensland need them both on the pitch. Darren Lockyer's retirement last year has also provided a massive opportunity for New South Wales and, if they use it to their advantage, this test will be magical to watch.
4. The best coaches in the game
Both coaches have, of course, played for their side at some point and that’s one of the main things I love about Origin. Ricky Stuart was the last man to coach NSW to victory in 2005. He was only appointed for one series but after consecutive losses (and a controversial outburst after leading Australia into the 2008 World Cup Final undefeated) they recalled him last year. He’s proven that he can take the team to victory and I strongly believe he’s capable of doing it again. Mal Meninga played in the first State of Origin match, he holds the record for the most points and goals scored ever by one player in State of Origin and in short, he’s a Queensland hero. This week, he banned press from the Queensland camp – a sign of the seriousness of the Test.
5. Because everyone else will be
According to Australia’s Daily Telegraph, hosts Channel 9 are expecting record-breaking numbers of viewers. Origin One was the most watched Origin game ever and rated third as the most watched rugby league match of all time, with Origin Two the fifth most watched rugby league game ever. The channel is expecting this decider to smash all-time records and I think it has a seriously good chance of not only being the most watched but the most entertaining league fixture ever.