Previously, State of Origin was an international trial. Gather the boys, play the best against the best, then choose a team of Kangaroos.
If you look at the greatest teams of Kangaroos, the Invincibles from 1982 and the Unbeatables from 1986 to 1994, perhaps the last real tour, they coincided with the birth of Origin until the golden age of the beginning 90s. It was the ultimate finishing school.
Now, however, that aspect is gone. Britain’s continued failures might be one of them – and please be kind to your humble reporter Pommy in the comments section – but the major problem, in my opinion, is that Origin doesn’t really look like what it was in 1994, and indeed, international football either.
If you want to know the difference, our much talked about 2022 Home State wingers would be a good place to start.
In the blue corner you have Daniel Tupou, who played for Tonga in the 2017 World Cup, and Brian To’o, who could still play for Samoa later in the year.
In the brown corner you have Xavier Coates, born in PNG and almost nailed to play for the Kumuls in October, and Selwyn Cobbo, a proud Native who once played in the All Star game.
For reference, the 1994 Game 1 wingers were Rod Wishart, Graham Mackay, Michael Hancock and Wille Carne. All great players of course, and all have played for Australia.
Tupou has previously spoken about his conversations with Brad Fittler about Origin eligibility and the upcoming World Cup. Indeed, that dilemma could arise as early as Game 2, with Tonga set to face New Zealand in Auckland the day before Origin in Perth.
“Freddy and I have talked about it and I absolutely want to play for Tonga at the end of the year,” he said. “I’ll see how things go for the [midyear] Test.
“I wanted to know if I could still play [for Tonga] at the World Cup and I can. Freddy knows how important it is for me to represent Tonga and my culture is quite serious for me. He understood it and respected it. »
Good news for Josh Addo-Carr. On the other wing, To’o is yet to confirm his World Cup squad, but last year he expressed a preference for Samoa.
“I had a good conversation about it with my family, especially with my brother and my father,” he said. “They support me whatever I decide. I’m pretty sure my target would be Samoa, so we’ll see how it goes.
The wingers aren’t the only ones. The Australian trial includes nearly half of all participants eligible, and even likely, to play elsewhere. From New South Wales, only six players in the squad are Australian-only players.
Where 36 Origin players could have been reduced to 24 in a squad for the World Cup, it is now much more complicated.
You can immediately remove Tupou and Kotoni Staggs, who have played most recently for Tonga, as well as Junior Paulo, Jarome Luai and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, who have already replaced Samoa, and Api Korosau and Jacob Saifiti, who will surely play for Fiji. .
Jeremiah Nanai, Stephen Crichton, Joseph Suaalii, Murray Taulagi and Payne Haas are also eligible for Samoa but unconfirmed.
Felise Kaufusi and Josh Papalii played more recently for Australia but have represented Tonga and Samoa respectively in the past, as have Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Tariq Sims with Fiji.
On the other side of the world, no one expects James Tedesco to turn down the Kangaroos for Italy – which he last represented in 2017 – but if Nicho Hynes and Pat Carrigan are not selected for Australia, Scotland and Ireland would certainly come calling, as would Wales (or Tonga) for Tyson Frizell.
The list of names and nations is a bit disconcerting, but also difficult to remember after two years without international football, it represents a sea change both in player talent and for rugby league in general.
Prior to 2017, eligibility rules meant Australia – and the money and recognition that came with it – ruled the roost, while everyone else had to wait.
Now the eligibility rules for international play treat State of Origin as what it is, an internal Australian competition akin to City-Country or Junior Reps.
Australia, which has shown little to no interest in the international game for years and has largely treated other nations, especially those in the Pacific, like fools, will now see up to half of their tryout main unfold for someone else.
On the other hand, the real winners are the players: they get their cake and eat it. They can play Origin, without having to play for Australia.
There’s no denying that Origin is the best example of rugby league, with the best players on the pitch at the same time, and they can play it and still have the chance to represent something that matters to them on a personal and family level. .
Maybe it’s me, not being from these areas, but it seems that the only rivalry between New South Wales and Queensland is based on the fact that they play sports.
The Australia that hosted State of Origin was primarily by and for Anglo-Celtic Australians who enjoyed their intramural sports day followed by an attack on the Poms afterwards.
In many ways, it’s a vestigial organ of that era – which is why we love the old footage, including the punches, which form a guilty pleasure from a bygone era. It reminds us of who we were and the legacy of the game.
This is not a criticism, by the way; it’s what Origin was for and largely mirrored Australia and Australian rugby league in 1982. That means a lot if you’re Rod Wishart from Gerringong or Michael Hancock from Stanthorpe. Heritage, in a sport like rugby league, is vital.
However, if you’re a dual-culture kid from Mount Druitt or Logan City, that legacy might not always feel like yours. That might be part of it, but the international game might be the other part.
I’m pretty sure Aboriginal and Maori players feel the same way about All Stars games at the start of the season. Origin scratches one itch, but this week scratches another.
Origin is a centerpiece of our game at the highest level that everyone can wallow in, retro punches and all. But that shouldn’t be the pinnacle anymore.
The FIFA World Cup is not the pinnacle of football and the T20 World Cup is not the pinnacle of cricket; the Champions League and the IPL took over. But no one watches international tournaments and complains that the level is not as high.
I see it as Origin offering recognition from your peers, proof that you have succeeded at the highest level, but international football offering the highest level of recognition from your community.
I’ve yet to meet a Pasifika player who wasn’t keen on leaving his country at the World Cup, and the most common thing they talk about isn’t football, it’s Culture.
It’s their moms and dads, who give back, the struggles they went through to give them the chance they’re taking now.
It’s good that rugby league has this major event that everyone admires, but now also has something else that offers the modern multicultural NRL and displays it at the highest level.
Australian rugby league must also recognize this and support its players. The actions of last year which saw the World Cup canceled at the whim of NRL clubs were circling the wagons around the mentality of 1982.
If this year’s Origin – now a World Cup trial for other nations – is anything to go by, they must do it now or have the pick taken away.