Millions of sports lovers will tune into the State of Origin across June. And many might be wondering how this great spectacle became what it is and how it all began. Well, here are the Origins of Origin, by Mat Barnes.
The loudest roars are almost upon us, league fans.
The game’s most famous three syllable chants are set to reverberate around our greatest stadiums.
It’s an energy that cuts to your core and stirs your soul.
A sense of anticipation is in the air, the days are counting down. The next instalment of the greatest theatre in Australian sport, State of Origin, is about to re-commence.
So let’s help get the blood flowing and run through the origins of Origin.
Origins of Origin: Why was State of Origin created?
It might surprise fans unacquainted with the history of the game, that interstate footy was contested between New South Wales and Queensland some seven decades before ‘Origin’ as we know it.
Do not be fooled though, it was a meek, soulless fixture; void of the passion and hate displayed today. Players were forced to represent the domestic competition from which they played. The NSWRL Premiership boasted the superior league over the QRL, so many proud Queenslanders moved to Sydney to compete against the game’s best and collect a more attractive wage – reluctantly donning a sky blue jersey in the process.
Such a lopsided dispersion of talent produced a largely one-sided affair, with New South Wales winning 50 of the 66 series played. Queensland managed a miserly 10 series wins, while six were drawn. By the late 1970’s, representative rugby league was on death row; its last meal being prepared.
The public were losing interest fast and tiny midweek crowds became the norm. The NSWRL even refused to play host in 1977. The ‘Origin’ concept of players representing their state of birth had been discussed for some time, originally suggested by former Queensland and Australian representative Jack Reardon.
But the idea was continually knocked on the head by the NSWRL and QRL powerbrokers alike. Until another push from some heavy-hitters in the Queensland rugby league scene finally convinced QRL Chairman Ron McAullife and NSWRL President Kevin Humphreys to explore the concept.
Origins of Origin: When did State of Origin begin?
By 1980, the Interstate competition was still following its tiresome script; New South Wales had clinched the series within two games. The second was played on a Tuesday night at Leichhardt Oval in front of a paltry 1,368 people.
Now was the time to experiment and both NSWRL and QRL were in agreeance.
So the third game of the series was replaced with a State of Origin trial.
The move was derided by many with influence in New South Wales, criticised as a pointless endeavour that would not last.
Queenslanders refused to believe this rhetoric though, notably the most revered of them all. 35-year-old Arthur Beetson was set to represent his beloved Queensland for the first time, after begrudgingly donning blue on 18 occasions.
By 1980, Beetson was in the twilight of his illustrious career; his body was busted and coupled with form only worthy of Parramatta reserve grade. But when he led the Maroons out in front of a capacity Lang Park, white powder splattered across his chest and fierce determination brooding from his brow, he and his men were about to unlock something truly special.
The 13 Queenslanders who took the field that night refused to give up, refused to give in, refused to go off.
Not one substitution was made.
And when Beetson clocked his club teammate Mick Cronin with a swinging arm to the face, he lit the fuse to a rivalry that burns fiercer, year upon year. Origin was born, State vs State, Mate vs Mate. The Maroons won 20-10 and a legacy was created.
There is no doubting the Queensland spirit birthed State of Origin.
Their pride in their state and jersey gave rise to the colossus we celebrate today. Despite the success of the 1980 encounter, a standalone Origin was repeated in 1981. Queensland repeated their victory from the year prior, and from 1982 it was announced a three-game series was here to stay.
Which State has won more State of Origin series?
Queensland 25 – 16 New South Wales
Entering the 44th year of Origin footy (2023), Queensland have won 67 games to New South Wales’ 57, with two draws. Ultimately, the Maroons hold a 25-16 series advantage.
Queensland dominated the early incarnations of the Origin concept, winning eight of 11 games and the opening three series from 1982-84.
The Blues finally arrived to the party in 1985, with captain Steve Mortimer dropping to his knees in relief, capturing a famous 2-1 series win. And while it would take the Blues six years to catch up, that got the southern state going.
The next two decades saw New South Wales win more than they lost; their depth of elite talent ringing true. But the dogged Queensland spirit remained, notching their fair share of memorable underdog victories right through the late 80s and 90s.
And it was another late comeback in the 2006 decider that sparked a Queensland run of 11 titles over the next 12 years, including eight straight from 2006 to 2013. The greatest Origin side ever assembled firmly shifted the ledger in their favour, but conversely instilled a newfound hunger and passion within the New South Wales ranks, including fans, that paved the way for three titles in the past five years.
When is State of Origin in 2023?
The State of Origin grandeur will again be shared amongst three states in 2023; Adelaide Oval hosts Game One on May 31st.
The series then returns to its spiritual home of Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on June 21st for Game Two, before Sydney’s Accor Stadium will potentially host the decider on July 12th.
New South Wales enter the series favourites as they have done over the past five years. But if you haven’t realised already, the ‘underdog’ title is one Queensland relish.