Sydney wanting to sell off some of Queensland’s State of Origin matches to Melbourne
There is a very simple answer to the Sydney wanting to sell off some of Queensland’s State of Origin matches to Melbourne in future. Tell ‘em to get stuffed.
You see without Queensland there would have been no State of Origin and New South Wales would have wiped out the old interstate series because it was so one-sided.
You remember why it was so one-sides ... NSW way of course?
Because Queensland clubs didn’t have poker machines like NSW so we couldn’t hold our top players up here against the huge money offering in Sydney. And when out top players got to Sydney clubs the best of them were selected for NSW in the old interstate matches and they usually belted the hell out of second class Queensland teams.
Back in late 1979 when Queensland Rugby League president, the late Ron McAuliffe, started pushing for an inter-state match in which the Queensland team would include Queensland players who were on big contracts with Sydney clubs, the Sydney league bosses had a big laugh.
They didn’t want anything to do with it and were even looking at ditching the normal instate series, which NSW dominated year after year because of its total control over buying our state’s best players. If you don’t remember NSW’s domination I’ll tell you. In the 30 interstate matches from 1970 to the 1979 series, NSW won 26. That left Queensland winning four.
Not a bad score for the series, eh? NSW 26 Queensland 4.
You may not remember but back then Queensland league clubs were dirt poor because we didn’t have poker machines like Sydney and could not match their big money player contracts.
So when State of Origin was suggested and got the backing of all Queenslanders, the Sydney league bosses, who controlled the game, thought it might be a good way to get rid of Queensland and the interstate series for good. They decided to let Queensland stage one of the three annual interstate matches as a “State of Origin” game which had to be played at Lang Park, not Sydney for goodness sake.
I was covering League for The Courier-Mail in those and don’t think I have ever been so happy phoning in my first State of Origin match report, which started out:
“Queensland stormed home to a 20-10 victory over New South Wales in the first state of origin match at Lang Park last night.”
Of course the Sydney bosses were disappointed but decided to let the northern dummies have another Origin match in 1981. We won that too.
By now Sydney was a little fed up and decided to put on three State of Origin matches in 1982. The first was at Land Park, which NSW won 20-16. The second, also at Lang Park, Queensland won 11-7.
And where was the third and deciding State of Origin match to be played? The Sydney Cricket Ground , of course. When I walked into the SCG press box a leading Sydney league writer, an old friend, pulled me aside to help me deal with the punishment I was about to receive. He told me very seriously to be prepared for the sad scene I was about to witness. NSW players were fair dinkum this time, he said. They won’t be mucking around this time. They are seriously going to show your blokes how to play Rugby League. So don’t be too disappointed.
And I wasn’t too disappointed at all because we won that great match 10-5, led by Wally Lewis who was star of the match.
And remember the referee caned Queensland 15-11 in the penalties and NSW won the scrums 12-7.
I immediately picked up the phone to ring my story back to The Courier-Mail but couldn’t get through for a couple of minutes because the copy-taker couldn’t hear me for the screaming, argueing and cursing of my Sydney press colleagues.
Ah! What a night.
And remember this was a sporting event that Sydney’s national league officials didn’t want.
And today it has become so big that Sydney wants to take some of the matches from the birthplace of Origin football, this great state of Queensland and give it to Melbourne.
As I said back there: Tell ‘em to get stuffed.
And for the record I am given a little credit in the official history of the game, “State of Origin, The First Twelve Years”, for writing something in 1979 that helped McAuliffe start the series against the wishes of the Sydney dummies.