It has been three-and-a-half decades and counting for the National Rugby League – or NRL’s – State Of Origin series, and with the thirty-sixth match having taken place just last weekend, rugby is still in fine form in Australia.
Since 1980, the best-of-three match contest has been played between State teams of New South Wales and Queensland, and even if the first Origin game was borne almost accidentally after the NSW. side took out two consecutive games and hope had all but been lost for a flailing Queensland team.
In a fresh-released coffee table book State Of Origin 35 Years 1980-2014 published this year, Liam Hauser has collated information from past to present in a hard-cover celebration that includes the origins, team players and statistics and stirs up the heated tempo of some of the series over the years.
The matches have pulled crowds of thousands over the years after the original match sealed the fate of State rugby contests; everything rode on whether Queensland could in fact rise up to defeat NSW after being battered in the first two games.
Hauser accounts for the thrill of the matches, including the 1994 series when in Game One, the Queensland Maroons struggled back to an almost-incomprehensible win, and in Game Two, amid a crowd of 87, 161 fans, the N.S.W. Blues were all over their opposing Maroons forcing them to repeatedly stumble as the latter side took penalty after penalty.
Hauser notes that “the game might have panned out differently had O’Neill not missed a simple goal-kick in the first half”. The kick that he is referring to was one by Julian O’Neill for the Queensland side where at twelve metres left of the goal area, the ball collided into the post and the Blues took poll position to seize the match, and after Game Three, the 1994 series.
In sum, this is a great book that pays tribute to a great game. Rugby might not be an Aussie invention, but Origin certainly is.
‘STATE OF ORIGIN: 35 YEARS 1980-2014’ IS AVAILABLE THROUGH ROCKPOOL PUBLISHING, RRP $29.99.