State of Origin Football
State of origin football, whereby players represent the state they were born in or grew up in, is one of the odd features of the Australian football landscape. It was invented by Australian football as a kind of substitute for international competition, but it died out when the Victorian Football League expanded into a national league.
The concept of State of Origin football was picked up by rugby league. Although rugby league had international competition, it seemed that league fans in NSW and Queensland were more interested in seeing their state representative teams beat each other than see their national teams beat Britain or New Zealand.
Rugby union used to have a state rivalry between NSW and Queensland, but this was less important than international competition. Today, rugby players play for a state, but it doesn’t have to be a state that they had ever previously lived in.
Soccer has never had a version of state of origin.
Origin of the origin concept
First staged in 1883, inter-colonial football represented the first coming together of Australia as one nation. These popular football carnivals were rotated around Australia, with players selected from each state league. As the Victorian Football League (VFL) became Australia's most financially powerful state league, it soon poached the best players Australia wide and became unbeatable.
In the 1970s, Western Australia argued that state teams should use similar eligibility criteria to that used for international teams. Specifically, players should represent their region of origin rather than the league they play in. The first State of Origin match between Western Australia and Victoria was held in 1977 with Western Australia winning by a staggering 94 points.
State of Origin continued to be seen as the pinnacle of Australian football until the addition of teams from Western Australia and South Australia into the VFL presented new marketing dilemmas and administrative headaches. One of the problems was that the expansionist team acted a bit like a state representative teams. In a sense, every time they played, they were fulfilling the state rivalry served by an Origin series. Another problem was that the higher intensity of Origin football was damaging to bodies. Because the expansionist teams had to provide more players for state duty, their prospects for a grand final victory were hampered relative to the prospects of the Victorian clubs.
A final problem was the difficulty in putting on an even contest. Each state was not even close to being even in the talent pool it could draw from. To be more precise, SA, WA and Victoria all could compete against each other; however, NSW, Queensland and Tasmania could not. It just proved to be too difficult to create a tournament that included three strong teams, and three weak teams in a way that held spectator interest.
While state of origin has floundered in Australian rules, it has been a success in rugby league, where it is solely a two-horse race. The first rugby league Origin was staged in 1980. The new format proved to be am instant success and greatly contributed to the growth of popularity of rugby league in Queensland. Come Origin time, the entire state united behind their team.
A few early marketing gimmicks have also stayed until today. Queenslanders are referred to as Cane Toads in a derogatory reference to the plague of toads that they live with. New South Welshman are referred to as Cockroaches, due to the abundance that live in Sydney houses. Officially, Queensland are the Maroons and NSW are the Blues.
Queenslanders are generally seen as the more passionate of the two states. This is probably because it is far easier to chant “Queenslander Queenslander Queenslander ” than "New South Welshman New South Welshman New South Welshman". This makes it seem as though Queensland crowds are more vocal in their support.
As well as helping promote rugby league as a whole, Origin football also helped build the star quality of individual players. Arguably, it is thanks to Origin that rugby league fans have less of a tall-poppy syndrome than their AFL counterparts. Star AFL players like Chris Judd will always be the enemy of fans of the other 15 clubs that hate Carlton. In rugby league; however, star players like Greg Inglis and Billy Slater represent a state, and Australia, and this allows them to also represent a broader market.
When the Brisbane Broncos entered the NSWRL in 1987, rugby league Origin faced some of the obstacles that had afflicted the Australian football version. Specifically, the Broncos supplied a disproportionately high number of players, and this in turn hindered the club's home and away prospects. Furthermore, the Broncos were State of Origin every week. Unlike the AFL clubs; however, the Broncos saw the promotional benefits in supplying a high number of players and in being seen as the state team. It leveraged those benefits to become the most popular rugby league team in Australia.
Some of the problems of supplying an excessive number of players have since been dissipated with the addition of a second team in Nth Queensland and a third on the Gold Coast. The addition has helped the Broncos premiership prospects but reduced their popularity in Queensland.
While rugby league gains benefit from State of Origin, it is not without cost. In comparison to the elite standard of play seen in Origin, club football looks a bit second rate.
Economically speaking, more money is made from the 180 or so games in a home and away season than in three games of State of Origin, so it is a bit irrational for rugby league administrators to potentially damage the appeal of home and away for the Origin. On the flip side, the Origin is such a great advertisement for the rugby brand and an effective weapon in protecting the rugby league line that damage to the home and away season can be justified.
Activity 1 - Develop solutions to make State of Origin work in the AFL