State of Origin is the annual best of three series of rugby league matches between the Australian states of Queensland and New South Wales. State of origin is described as “sport’s greatest rivalry” and is when players are selected to represent the Australian state in which they played their first senior rugby league game. This year marked 30 years of this competition and nowadays more Kiwis are slowly creeping into the competition, rightfully pledging their alliance but when it comes to the crunch- this is not our competition to play.
The State of Origin is an event that has so much passion that can only truly come from players representing where they were born and bred. To be able to understand the exact meaning of Origin, one would believe that you need to have lived it, for both states it’s almost a religious belief and Kiwis will never be able to relate to that extent. Even though Kiwis are passionate about the game itself they shouldn’t want to play. When Australian’s play, you see the desire that they have for their state whereas when you often see Kiwis on the team, you can see that there’s not the same level of passion.
Nowadays Kiwi kids are being given the opportunity to play for the Australian system younger than what they use to, have been there for half of their lives are aware that there is big money involved. There is also the influence of agents who see the benefits of playing Origin which also includes the fact that their league status would definitely benefit from it. When you see players who have played representative rugby league for the New Zealand Māori teams pledge their alliance to Australia to play origin that is a definite example of why Kiwis shouldn’t play origin. How can you go from busting out the haka in rep footy to singing the Australian national anthem? If you had been taught well enough within the camps of playing for the New Zealand Māori it should be enough of a privilege to do the haka before the game. You should know within yourself that this is the side you always play for, no matter how much money you’re offered.
We have seen that the State of Origin competition loves some Kiwi talent. This forces those players to show where their heart lies. Those who are strongly connected to being a Kiwi and how you were brought up are those who are definitely the ones who will stay loyal to New Zealand. For Māori, in particular there is even more of a reason to want to stay out of the Origin scene. Their origins are back here in New Zealand; this is the land their tupuna are from. If they do not understand that enough that is more reason to want to play for New Zealand. In this day and age representing a team is heavily influenced by monetary benefits but by knowing in your heart that this is not really your competition, knowing that your blood actually runs through the Kiwis team should be more than enough to want to represent New Zealand.
New Zealand rugby league needs to take responsibility in making sure we get as much talent into our system so that they can realise the importance of staying true to where they really belong and to also use as many current players to be role models in order to further our game for the future. We should no longer worry about players such as James Tamou and focus on those who have been and remain loyal to the Kiwis team. There has been the idea that NZ should have a type of origin called ‘City vs. Country’, but even that is definitely another kaupapa that can be analysed. There are a few reasons why this competition may not be successful and they are that NZ has a natural rivalry with Australia and not against each other. The rivalry goes beyond the playing fields and is encountered in everyday life. Would the rivalry between Aucklanders and non Aucklanders be able to match the intensity of NSW and QLD? Would this idea attract as many New Zealanders with the same emotion as they have for the State of Origin? Even if they haven’t been to Australia they still spend money on merchandise and huddle around the TV at home or in the pub and get into the mentality and emotion of the game. Would they still do the same for this type of competition? For the time being, NZRL needs to focus on building relationships and a culture within the younger generation who are able to be proud of representing at country level. With the National Rugby League competition being an Australian one, Kiwis need to show that NZ natural rivalry is with Australia and is best shown when we play against them at a representative level, not alongside them. Since at this time, rep footy for Kiwis is only at the country level there needs to be more opportunities to play even if it’s for NZ Māoris and other representative levels.
I love State of Origin. Not because of the passion that Australian’s have when they play but because of its intensity, the competition itself and its history. I hope to see that the NZRL focus on our representative culture and teach Kiwi players to appreciate the fact that the State of Origin is not for them. But in the meantime, in the year 2012, Queensland has won 7 series in a row and we Kiwis are still the World Champs!