For me it is the epitome of rugby league. It’s such a spectacle, such an event and currently the best one that is put out anywhere.
I know there’s international rugby league but State of Origin is the one thing that everyone gets behind.
The rivalry between Queensland and New South Wales, the hatred, the build-up and then sheer intensity of the games, it is the full package.
Changes in the game over the years have toned down the physicality of it in terms of the famous ‘Biff’ aspect. But I watched the first one of this year’s series last week and the intensity, pace and excitement of that game, it showed why it’s always been on my wish list.
I’ve had the privilege of going to see some Origin matches before and it always made me want to be a part of it.
I would have loved to have been able to play for the Blues and be a part of that whole experience.
However, if there was any chance of that (I’m not sure there was) it would have meant I wouldn’t have been able to represent England; I think I’d have had to swear allegiance to Australia and I’d have NEVER played for them! But Origin’s the one thing I wish I could have done; it is so phenomenal.
Every now and again they take it to somewhere like Perth or, like last Wednesday, Melbourne, and they still get massive, massive crowds but you see how much is at stake, what rides on it all, the media profile and everything like that and you understand why.
You can tell with the players how much it means to them.
The ‘mate against mate’ concept is great although at Wests Tigers, we only ever really had Robbie Farah so that didn’t happen for him.
They are honoured to represent their state but they then ‘back up’ for their clubs as well which is all part of the challenge and experience.
I watched Canberra v Penrith on Friday morning and Blues’s James Maloney and Nathan Cleary were absolutely outstanding for Penrith as they came back from behind late on to win 23-22.
On the other side, Josh Papalii, who had played for Queensland, was brilliant, too. It’s almost like they’re saying ‘I’ve represented my State and now I’m coming back to show you all why’.
It’s a tough period for them all but they step up to the plate.
I played in the last Yorkshire v Lancashire game we had over here in 2003 and I’d love to see that come back and see that rivalry renewed.
Origin in Australia didn’t start until 1982 and it took a few years (and probably some good marketing) for people to get behind it.
There’s no reason why we couldn’t establish it here and I’m all for it but we’d have to stick with it and let it grow.
Over time it could become a real spectacle.
Again, the fixture list would have to be looked at – you couldn’t have our players playing more than 30 games and then adding another three.
But we’re struggling to create that ‘spectacle’ and a return of the Roses would certainly help do that.