The Last Great Fight - State of Origin 2009

SydneySox

A dash of cool to add the heat
SoSH Member
Sep 19, 2005
14,612
39
The Eastern Suburbs
If you know what State of Origin is, you can skip the primer below.

Rugby League is a really big sport in the north east of Australia, and every year there is a three-match sort of all-star game that actually matters. New South Wales and Queensland make up most players in the National Rugby League competition, with foreign players, most from New Zealand or other pacific island nations and some from the UK.

That three-match series is called State of Origin, and selection is only available for players who are 'Australian' (they have pledged to play for Australia nationally) who come from NSW or Queensland or pledge themselves to one of the other. There are plenty of players who are from the pacific who come over here young-ish and play and end up in one of the two teams, they just can't play for their nation of birth, rather their adopted nation, Australia. Historically that's what they all wanted to do anyway but lately that's changing a bit, which is good for the game.

Importantly, calling these games all-star matches is underselling them. They're held mid-season and really matter. They're not exhibitions, they genuinely matter to the point it's all anyone talks about all season. They matter much, much more than international selection. Being selected for NSW and Qld is actually more important to many players than being selected for the Kangaroos.

And they're brutal games where people try to kill each other despite playing for the same competition team.

I can't overstate how much these players want to play in these games and how much damage they do to themselves and each other.


Now, in saying that, SoO has started to drop away from the public importance a little bit lately. The International game is now much more competetive and is starting to make a difference, and the game itself is continuing to grapple with the other sports here, primarily soccer's growth.

The game has also modernised to address very important things, like head injuries, fighting and the 'shoulder-charge', all things that have been removed from the game almost entirely (well, not head injuries, though now there are clear protocols that are still a work in progress).

But. In 2009, none of that mattered. You could still do all of that shit.

Queensland had a run recently of winning virtually everything, and in 2009 they were IN Queensland for the third game already owning the series, up 2-0, and NSW hoping not to get rolled in a whitewash.

Someone pulled together a pretty good video diary thing of the way that game ended, and it's good enough I thought general sports fans might get a kick out of it.

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/nrl/she-s-on-here-an-oral-history-of-state-of-origin-s-last-great-meltdown-20190523-p51qfz.html

I hope you enjoy. There's a player-primer below most of the way down that sort of outlines some of the names of who played for who because the article sort of immediately assumes you know who the major players are. It also sort of assumes you know NSW won the game. They did, that's not a secret, but the win is irrelevant to what is called the big, last great fight in rugby league.
 

Spacemans Bong

chapeau rose
SoSH Member
Feb 7, 2003
17,858
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Yawkey Way and 24 Willie Mays Plaza
State vs state, mate vs mate.

There was about a five year period where Origin (and the NRL in general) was consistently on Fox Sports World, and therefore findable and watchable, and I watched pretty much every game. Out of 15 games, maybe 1-2 were stinkers. It delivers consistently more often than any other sporting event I know, certainly way more than the Champions League final, or the Super Bowl, or pretty much any final in rugby union. As you note, international rugby league was in a real state from 1998-2003 or so, to the point I remember Ray Hadley defending himself on radio for taking his kid to a Bledisloe Cup test on the basis that "union is the only international footy around". So it was the biggest series in rugby league for several years, if not longer.
 

swiftaw

Member
SoSH Member
Jan 31, 2009
1,918
They tried it in England once with Lancashire vs Yorkshire, it didn’t catch on. Having been born and raised in St. Helens I am naturally a huge rugby league fan. (I need to find a way to watch Super League in the US)
 

SydneySox

A dash of cool to add the heat
SoSH Member
Sep 19, 2005
14,612
39
The Eastern Suburbs
The thing I liked most about the article is they managed to get people talking about stuff - was it a mistaken kick or were they meant to pass it - and also clearly there still remains a huge level of resentment between Steve Price (who was the captain of the club team I support) and Justin Poore about what happened.

I loved this shit at the end as well about Poore turning up to the Queensland drinks function. If you don't know league, the names Poore mentions, Meninga and Wally Lewis... they're the immortal Queenslanders.