State of Origin: Sport’s greatest rivalry

An Origin primer from a completely unbiased NSW Blues fan

Origin time, baby. Origin time. You know what’s special about Origin? Absolutely everything.

Before we get started here, let me tell you a little something. I was born in Penrith, rugby league heartland. My mum worked at Panthers Leagues Club in the ‘80s. When I was an infant I was watching games on the hill at Penrith Park. Rugby league – the greatest game of all – is in my blood. And, most importantly, that blood is blue. 

I love the Panthers, obviously. But three times a year, I forget who the Panthers even are. I’m no longer a Panthers fan. I’m a NSW Blues fan. I was born in 1982 – the very year the three-game Origin series commenced – and, as such, have seen every minute of every game. Granted I was more conscious during some games than others.

SWIAM, a fine but Victoria-based company, reached out to me, a Penrith-raised man, to ‘write 400 or 500 words about Origin’. What ended up happening is over 1000 words spilled in the name of sharing my passion with you, the fine SWIAM reader.

Editor note: Most of the thoughts in this article do not represent the views of Sports Where I Am.

I’ll tell you something, rugby league is a wild game. The players are often in the news. The game has been constantly changed over its history. The competition has been split up, burned down and reunified. But, somehow, the game survives. I believe that a lot of that can be credited to State Of Origin. So hey man, if you’re not familiar with the game but you’re Origin-curious, let me take a few minutes of your time to give you some background on sport’s greatest rivalry.

A Little Background

Origin as we know it started in 1982 but there have been NSW vs QLD games played since rugby league was established in 1908. Basically NSW and QLD have hated each other way longer than you realise. Now, we’re not gonna revisit 123 years of history here but let me tell you why this game gets so spiteful. 

Back in the day, it wasn’t State of Origin, it was state of residence. There wasn’t a unified National Rugby League competition; there was the NSWRL and the QRL. The NSWRL had all the money and, as such, any skilled Queenslanders were brought south of the border to play for Sydney teams. And when it was time, those very Queenslanders pulled on a sky blue jersey and laid waste to Queensland teams made up of amateurs. It was like this meme.

It wasn’t until 1980 that the State Of Origin concept was introduced. Queensland – spurred by 72 years of having to massacre their own people – were finally free to rep their wretched state1. The Maroons raised up against their oppressors and handed NSW a 20-10 defeat. It was just the beginning. They have been exacting bloodthirsty revenge ever since. More on that later.

What Happened Next

For a while, it was incredible. NSW and QLD would at times go series-for-series. They would win two series on the trot, then we’d come back and win three. They had Wally and Alfie in the ‘90s, but we had Freddy and Joey in the ‘00s. Man, it was good. But then at a time when the best NSW could muster up was Robbie Farah and Mitchell Pearce, Queensland had generational talent right across the park: Lockyer, Slater, Smith, Cronk, Thurston, Inglis. There was no stopping the machine. Queensland won eight-straight series from ‘06 to ‘13.

Sports Where I Am is an authorised travel provider of the NRL. Packages to Ampol State of II (Brisbane) and III (Sydney) are available now.

Now, usually, this kind of dominance in a two-team competition would kill the game. But, somehow, it didn’t. Origin is still the most important sporting event on my calendar. It doesn’t matter how strong or weak the NSW team is, I am THERE. On the couch, cheering quietly so I don’t wake my kids, complaining in whispers so my wife won’t think I’m too invested, crying quietly because Queensland have won another series and I can’t see how NSW will ever bounce back and also this means way too much to me and why can’t I just let it go?

Let Me Explain This Further

Future once said “They tried to make me a pop star and they made a monster,” and it’s true. The process of creating his untouchable discography has forged a truly flawed human being. In a similar vein, by creating Origin, Australian Rugby League unleashed something so truly electric that it has come to overshadow other moments that should really mean more. 

The Grand Final? It’s great but it’s not Origin. The international game? Pffft. Australia vs New Zealand is never played with the kind of rage that Origin is. The spectacle isn’t there. It’s a little like Origin is the raw energy of a wild bare-knuckled pub brawl, and the international game, by comparison, is a Mayweather fight. Yea the Mayweather fight means more on paper, but who would watch Pretty Boy Floyd when they could see two dipshits throwing haymakers? No comparison2.

This mid-season three-game competition is so good, it can mean more to NRL fans than their own team. What other sport can say the same?

What’s up with Queenslanders?

I’m satisfied I’ve told you what you need to know by now but, really, you need to know this too. Queenslanders are a different breed. Remember what I said earlier about the 1980 team being spurred on by the previous few decades? Well, like, the eligibility rules changed and it’s all fine now, you know? You’d think that that fury would have fizzled out after a year or two but here we are, in 2021, and the Queenslanders still aren’t over it. They have players in their team who were born in 2000; these dudes would have grown up seeing nothing but Queensland dominance, but they still play with a chip on their shoulder as if they’re all underdogs. It’s ludicrous. Imagine the most insufferable Lakers fan trying to tell you that recruiting LeBron and AD made the Lakers underdogs and winning the 2020 Championship – the team’s sixth in the last 20 years – was something special; that’s Queensland. Except they’re also [redacted] from [redacted] and [redacted] on their [redacted]3.

So why should you go?

Because it’ll be a packed stadium full of people who care about this as much as I do. Also, imagine if NSW win. 

Go Blues.

Sports Where I Am is an authorised travel provider of the NRL. Packages to Ampol State of II (Brisbane) and III (Sydney) are available now.

Photo credits for header graphic (left to right): Crowd cheering photo by NRL Travel, Stadium photo by Pierre Roudin, Press Conference photo by Tourism Victoria.

  1. Editor note: Sports Where I Am loves you, Queensland.
  2. Editor note: This was written before Mayweather agreed to fight Logan Paul. The analogy probably made more sense then.
  3. Editor note: We tried to leave this as untouched as possible, so you could get a sense of the passion in the rivalry. But… yeah.