Every year I put away my AFL toys for three nights when State of Origin is played, because not even the NRL Grand Final holds a candle to the extreme emotions and level of brutal intensity that elevates the three Origin games towards the absolute top-of-the-pile of great Australian sporting events. So come 7pm tonight, unlike much of southern Australia who ridiculously don’t even get the choice and can only share the experience after 10.30pm, I will be eagerly parked in my TV lounge chair ready to savour every minute of Nine’s typically brilliant coverage as it takes us through the whole Origin cavalcade.

Like any mad Cockroach or Cane Toad follower, I am salivating at the prospect of watching the most competitively punishing and intense brand of football that gives the NRL physical bragging rights over every other football competition in the world. The NFL in the US is also a physically brutal game, while displaying more of the chess-like qualities of Union, but they’ve got all kinds of protection when stopped in their tracks. Whereas when Billy Slater or Anthony Minichiello sidestep tonight with both sides determined to make an “impression” on each of the stellar runners as early as possible, these warriors wear no helmet and precious little else by way of protection, and by comparison with the NFL giants, like the great Queensland captain Darren Lockyer – the latest ‘Emperor of Lang Park’, they might as well stand and deliver naked.

State of Origin for any Crikey reader with even the faintest interest in sport, but has never bothered to watch it, is not only a state of mind for two teams determined never to give an inch that isn’t won without supreme effort, but for sheer sporting drama it’s about as good as it gets.

The contest between two teams who put everything on the line for their state in a concept originally the domain of the AFL but now sadly missing from its inventory, long ago transcended a simple battle of rival states.