TOMORROW night over 90,000 will fill the MCG for a State of Origin classic. However, there won’t be a Big V jumper in sight; it’ll be a rugby league contest between cockroaches and cane toads.
State of Origin is a concept first utilised by the indigenous game in the 1970s before those with no-necks first kicked off the now infamous series in 1980.
Ted Whitten, Mr Football drove the culture and significance of state versus state and to play for the Big V evoked arguably more emotion than anything else as a player.
Further, to be a successful South Australian or Western Australian side against the Victorians was about as good as it got for our crow-eating and sand-groping friends.
Sadly, tomorrow night the grand old girl, the ‘people’s ground’, the greatest stadium in the land will play host to a true sporting spectacle yet no Sherrin will be present.
“Is it time to bring Origin back to the AFL?” a question always asked this time of year when the northern states are suffering epidemic doses of Origin fever.
There is umm-ing and argh-ing and nothing ever is settled on even though there’s always the concession that it can be done right and there’s no holes in such a proposal the majority of fans would be on board and substantially so at that.
The timing has always been problematic – do it mid-year and it’s an interruption to the season where any injuries would be catastrophic to the clubs. End of season, we’ve switched off and that’s about the finals, the draft, and the footy trips.
Pre-season is perfect. The NAB Cup has run its race, sure, let practice matches occur in the background at your regional venues, something that was successful this summer. But have big Origin matches in the three southern states at the same time to provide a real spark to the return of footy each year.
Have Victoria host Western Australia at the ‘G, fill the Adelaide Oval the weekend after when South Australia host the Vics, how good would that be?
And when Perth’s new goliath of a stadium is finished have Western Australia hosting South Australia – now which would be something to behold.
Every year alternate the opponents so Victoria would visit each of the other states every second year allowing for a fair and exciting two year cycle of Origin footy.
But this would all be about the players. Australian Rules football is one of the very few sports that do not showcase the best of the best as a part of their calendar. Most European team sports either have international competition or look towards the Olympics, American sport all look to all-star fixtures.
Sure, we occasionally front up and play a bunch of drunk, Irish backpackers in the spring time using a compromised set of rules and kick around a volleyball but that’s hardly true, representative football.
And sure the talent pool of AFL extends far further than just the three main southern states but good luck selling the TV rights for Northern Territory versus ACT to a free-to-air broadcaster. Yes, seeing Steven Motlop avoiding a Phil Davis tackle would attract your hardcore footy nerd, but in middle of Autumn most could take it or leave it.
So what kind of alluring talent validates the time and energy into nutting out how to successfully bring back Origin football? What would be the hypothetical line-ups should these three proud football states be picking sides at the mid-point of the 2015 season.
Well, here’s a crack at it:
B: Josh Gibson – Tom McDonald – Heath Shaw
HB: Luke Hodge – Michael Hurley – Easton Wood
C: Sam Mitchell – Scott Pendlebury – Patrick Dangerfield
HF: Dustin Martin – Jaryd Roughead – Jamie Elliott
F: Jack Gunston – Jeremey Cameron – Eddie Betts
Ruck: Todd Goldstein – Jordan Lewis – Joel Selwood
Inter: Dan Hannebery – David Mundy – Robbie Gray – Luke Parker
A plethora of midfielders and so many gun names are stiff to miss. Given the immense depth of onballers the Big V can chose from one has to go with a mix of those in form and those who have earned the right over their careers. A young and exciting backline with two very vocal generals in Hodge and Shaw, the forward line is arguably no more talented than either of the two states to follow strangely enough.
B: Corey Enright – Brian Lake – Shannon Hurn
HB: Brodie Smith – Heath Grundy – Jack Hombsch
C: Ryan Griffen – Hamish Hartlett – Shaun Burgoyne
HF: Chad Wingard – Jay Schulz – Shaun Edwards
F: Paul Puopolo – Matthew Pavlich – Lindsay Thomas
Ruck: Sam Jacobs – Scott Thompson – Lachie Neale
Inter: Justin Westhoff – Bernie Vince – Brad Ebert – Bryce Gibbs
The Croweaters look the weakest side on paper but it’s hard to pinpoint their real weakness. Their midfield contains enough star power that they can compete against Victoria (just), their backline is industrious and creative alike and sure Pavlich and Schulz aren’t the most powerful one-two punch yet the small brigade around them would cause even the best backline havoc.
B: Harry Taylor – Alex Rance – Paul Duffield
HB: Elliott Yeo – Cale Hooker – Chris Yarran
C: Stephen Hill – Matthew Priddis – Lewis Jetta
HF: Haydn Ballantyne – Lance Franklin – Jack Darling
F: Michael Walters – Josh Kennedy – Mark LeCras
Ruck: Aaron Sandlilands – Nat Fyfe – Andrew Swallow
Inter: Nick Naitanui – Brad Hill – Patrick Cripps – Chris Masten
The forward line is immense, two of the best ruckmen in the league and Nat Fyfe. That’s almost enough as is. However, the backline has wonderful talls and capable smalls, the midfield has a lot of pace which would look good on the open space of Subiaco and nothing the other two states can much the tall timber in the forward 50 of Franklin and Kennedy. The thought of Fyfe roving to Naitanui who hits Franklin lace out sells tickets alone.