Rescheduling the State of Origin may prove to be death knell for autumn Ashes series - Dave Craven

All this surreal April heat must be getting to me – I saw State of Origin is going ahead and my heart sank.

VICTORY SHIELD: Former Leeds Rhinos player and coach Dave Furner, left, and Adam Muir after winning the 2000 State of Origin with New South Wales.

Ordinarily, it is the highlight of the rugby league calendar, a sporting occasion that holds such appeal and draw through its alchemic mix of blood, guts and thunder and no little rugby league brilliance.

All the hype, all the build-up, all the mate-versus-mate rhetoric as Queensland and New South Wales rev up to go at each other again over a seismic three-game series: it just gets me every time.

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When it comes to the sporting bucket list, experiencing Origin’s magic and folklore first-hand remains top. Unchecked. So far, at least. So why, then, my dismay to hear the 2020 version – set for June and July – is going to survive the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and will be played?

ALL TIME GREAT: Former Australia, State of Origin, St Helens, Souths and Canberra Raiders legend Mal Meninga, the current Green and Golds coach.

It is simple really. Reports Down Under suggest the audience-grabbing Origin will occur but AFTER the NRL season ends.

If things go according to plan – and admittedly it is hard planning anything in this Covid-19 state – that could be some time in November.

Alarm bells. England are supposed to be hosting Australia in a three Test series in November (well, the first Test at Bolton is scheduled for October 31 but you get my drift).

Yes, the Ashes. Another brilliant, iconic sporting occasion which evokes so many enduring emotions whether you are talking rugby league or cricket.

In rugby league terms, there has not been an Ashes series for 17 years. We have been waiting some time for this to happen. Moreover, we have not won a series since 1970; State of Origin did not even exist back then. Great Britain have lost 13 successive series so, in many ways, we should be careful what we wish for.

Nevertheless, the chance to welcome the Kangaroos – less than 12 months before they arrive again for the 2021 World Cup – is something all league fans here were rightly looking forward to.

Admittedly, the coronavirus has left everything up in the air and, while the NRL will resume on May 28, no one in this country yet knows when rugby league will even start playing again.

But the Rugby Football League – also staging games at Elland Road and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – are desperate to ensure the Ashes go ahead as is England coach Shaun Wane and RLWC 2021 organisers. They have remained hopeful all the logistical and timeline problems caused by Covid-19 could be overcome and would entertain hosting even if Super League was still going on.

But, in contrast, Australia’s love of international rugby league has always been an opaque subject.

Essentially, State of Origin – which almost always produces all the Kangaroos – is their king especially when it comes to profits.

The money-men Down Under are desperate to get it on and rightly so; although there were plenty of doubters when it started in 1980, it has grown into a sporting – not just rugby league – behemoth.

English fans will seek positives from the fact Australia coach Mal Meninga is a huge advocate of Test rugby. But, similarly, the former Maroons player and coach is an Origin legend having been there on that first night 40 years ago and provided so many stunning moments in its history.

If it came down to it, it would be intriguing to know his thoughts if only one – Origin or Ashes – could survive. Granted, it will not boil down to Meninga’s call. But the fear here is that, whenever a decision is finally made, it is the Ashes that will blow away in the wind.

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