THE BIG ISSUE: #52

The Big IssueBy STEVE MASCORD

ANOTHER Origin series has come and gone (sorry, ‘done and dusted’ has now entered the Corny Cliche Pantheon) and what have we learned? Has anything changed or is it the same as it ever was?

The Big Issue actually believes it was something of a landmark series, with philosophies, administration and power balances changing in such a way that the effects will be felt for a decade or more. Here’s a few of the reasons:

1. ORIGIN PROBABLY ISN’T PLAYED UNDER DIFFERENT RULES ANYMORE

THE idea that you could ‘get away with more’ in Origin, without anyone ever saying what those things were, was ridiculous. At the very least, it didn’t stand up to the standards of transparency and accountability we apply to everything else in the modern world. When four players were sent to the sin bin in Origin II, those days were over; Queensland captain Cameron Smith said as much after the game. Not a moment too soon.

2. OFFICIALS NOW ACCEPT ORIGIN IS THE GAME’S FLAGSHIP

FOR years, rugby league authorities were happy to rake in the money from interstate football without forcing it to take responsibility for the example it set at every level of the game. See point one. I know this is not a popular viewpoint but the punching crackdown indicates that the ARLC realise there are responsibilities that come with putting an event in front of the whole nation and making shedloads from it. Just call the backlash growing pains.

3. NSW HAVE MOMENTUM

HAVE a look at some of the scores in this year’s curtain-raisers and age group interstate matches. When it comes to junior strength, the pendulum is swinging back towards the Blues. It’s no wonder Queensland are targeting players with dual eligibility – such as for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. In the years ahead, they’ll need everyone they can get. NSW are also more stable in their selection policies at the top level, declining to hit the panic button after losing Origin II

4. SYDNEY AND BRISBANE HAVE A STRANGLEHOLD ON HOSTING MATCHES

FROM the point of view of getting the attention of the Sydney public, losing seven series in a row was probably the best thing NSW could have done. Big crowds for Origins I and III at an 82,000-capacity arena suggest it’s going to be hard for other capitals to wrest games away in future. Big Issue has been a champion of taking an Origin a year to Melbourne – but the fever pitch interest in Sydney is starting to change our minds.

Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK

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