For the sixth time in NRL State of Origin history, the canetoads and cockroaches will clash on the natural Melbourne battlefield in game one of the Harvey Norman series.
It will be the second time that the series will kickoff in Melbourne, the first being in 2009 when Queensland were victorious 28-18 in front of 50,967. Melbourne fans were treated several times by way of Greg Inglis crossing the line for two tries and Billy Slater with one.
Being a passionate rugby league fan, I was thrilled to bits when the NRL announced that one of the greatest rivalries in sport would be making the seldom trip south.
Blues coach and former dual code international great Ricky Stuart has promised Victorians that the show will be unlike any they have ever seen before.
To have the game one of the State of Origin being played away from the two powerful league states is massive for Melbourne. Victorians would challenge any other geographic location as the most passionate supporters of sport and one thing is guaranteed – the game will be a sell out with the year-to-year fan and once a year follower of rugby league donning the colours of maroon or blue to get behind one of the two.
Besides and more importantly to the profits that will be generated via gate takings and sponsorship on the small screen, the game will have a huge and positive impact on the sport of rugby league in an AFL driven state.
The game continues and will to grow in Victoria when the spotlight hits Melbourne. Support starts from the grass roots – in the schools. Although bombarded with everything AFL in Victoria, school children that attended rugby league school programs as of 2010 totalled 50,000. Quite an impressive number I believe. Interested league players don’t have the same options for choosing a team the way Australian Rules football participants have.
The NRL and Melbourne Storm will always be second to the all-powerful AFL, especially when a game such as Carlton v Collingwood is scheduled at the same time. One good thing is that crowd numbers continue to rise and the colour purple is ever so evident along the Yarra River on game day.
With the economy the way it is and the doom and gloom being conveyed to us by ‘financial experts’, going to the State of Origin may be difficult for some. However, and this is a big however, the Victorian papers will be filled with rugby league news – further to that, advertisements on television.
Being a Victorian, I chose many years ago to side with the maroons (partly because my father is from NSW and I wanted to create a rivalry within a rivalry) and have grown up with the game cheering the likes of ‘The King’ Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga, ‘Alfie’ Langer, ‘Fatty’ Vautin and now Smith, Billy and Jonathan Thurston.
Last year Melbourne fans were fortunate enough to have two of the best in the business in 2011 Wally Lewis Medal winner and Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith along with crowd favourite and 2011 Dally M Medal winner Bill Slater starring in the Queensland side. In addition to Smithy and Billy the Kid, the Storm had Cooper Cronk and Dane Neilsen in the team – all four likely to be back in the maroons jersey.
Game two of the series will be back in Sydney at ANZ Stadium with the potential decider played at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium. Queensland will be aiming to win their seventh straight State of Origin series.