Being involved in a NSW vs Queensland State Of Origin match is every rugby league players dream. It is the world's toughest, physical and most intense game that players can be involved in playing. It is all out war once out on the field, as club mates become enemies like the classic phrase goes 'State against state, Mate against mate'. It's definantly not a game to take half-heartedly or you will get crunched and end up a bit half headed not knowing where you are. It's a game you must remain focused in and at the same time give 110%.
Considered by many as the pinnacle of rugby league in Australia, the State of Origin series has always drawn large support in the Southern Hemisphere nation, as rivalries between Queensland Maroons and NSW Blues grow to an all time high, as both states claim to be the superior in rugby league.
Played in each state's backyard (Home football ground and territory) each year, the atmosphere is absolutely electrifying. Crowds flock in their thousands, selling out games weeks before they're even played. By the time the game comes around everyone is engulfed in origin fever. As soon as the players run out everything is on the line and it is no holds barred. There are bone-crunching tackles, exhilarating runs and champion feats. It all comes down to a battle of the fittest and which team can withstand the pressure of origin football.
Twenty five years ago, it all started at Lang Park when big Arthur Beetson led out Queensland out in front of a, 35000 people full, roaring stadium for the start of something that would become a traditional event. This event surpassed all expectations and took all league officials by surprise on how successful it was. The scene was set during that game of what could be expected to be seen in the future years.
The honors of that game went Queensland's way 20-10 in battle they had clearly won, with many outstanding performances. Through the years it has been a see-sawing affair and that is the greatest strength of the State of Origin series, in that it is extremely unpredictable, with teams sometimes pulling out the greatest victories despite being clear underdogs. This is why neither team has really been able to take advantage of the other and continuously been tit for tat. Like all sports though it has never gone without its fair share of controversy either. This has ranged from player availability and ground surfaces to rules and refereeing. The most famous controversy was the splitting of the NRL to form the ARL and Super League competitions for the 1997 season. The ARL played a conventional origin series, while the Super League formed a Tri 'origin' Series involving NSW, Queensland and a New Zealand team. Games were becoming unpredictable, as were player selections with Allan Langer being called out of a retirement to lead Queensland in Game 3 of the 2001 series. Now every game played is an absolute blockbuster with there being so much talent around in the rugby league today.
State of origin has definantly come a long way since that first match twenty five years from now, with easily identifiable changes in talent, fitness, intensity and strategies/mind sets of players. However the nature of origin, with the big hits, fast pace and entertaining matches, hasn't changed at all and is still widely liked. Sometimes however players can get over passionate and end up in a biff (fight/brawl) as someone has done something they haven't liked. Through the years there have been many unforgettable moments from Michael O'Connor's conversion from the sideline after the siren to give NSW victory to Mark Coyne's miracle try in 1994 with only 90 seconds left on the clock to give Queensland victory 16 - 12. This try started all the way down the other end of the park and through skill, determination and some classy finesse they managed to break NSW's line to score probably the greatest try in origin history.
So why is State Of Origin so highly liked? Why do the players put their hands up to put in the effort to play such a bruising game? Well the main reason is that they play for the enjoyment of playing a game they love. They're the ones that show the effects of a hard fought match with bruising, scars, stiffness and sometimes unfortunately injuries. All this just because they have the passion to want to represent their state and do them proud. They are true warriors and should all be commended on their dedication.