In the Herald Sun yesterday, an article stated “nearly 80%” of AFL players wanted a State of Origin revival. But it would have been just as important to ask the fans.
When barely 27,000 fans turned out to see the last origin match between Victoria and South Australia in 1999, pundits suggested that crowds were low because star players didn’t want to play for risk of injury. But perhaps they didn’t want to play because interest was low.
Through the late 90s the AFL had steadily become a national competition and in the year 1999, non-Victorian clubs made up half of the competition. In a way this already created a form of interstate rivalry that replaced the need for State of Origin football. The fact that non-Victorian teams would regularly draft homegrown kids only added to the apparent rivalry.
Today the AFL is a truly national game because with zoning rules a distant memory, players are being drafted by interstate teams more than ever before. Club scouts are now looking for the best young player, not just the best young player to come from where the club is based. To cope with this, clubs have enlisted people to help interstate players settle in to their adopted state and with programs such as “big brother” – where a young interstate draftee lives with an established player – the competition is a true melting pot.
In the Herald Sun’s possible 2006 Victorian team yesterday, over a quarter of those named played outside of Victoria, with the inclusion of two of the best going around at the moment, Chris Judd and Adam Goodes. What Victorian supporter wouldn’t want the chance to cheer for these champions as their own? And in turn wouldn’t these players want to play in front of the fans?
The possible Western Australia State of Origin side also had over a quarter of its team playing outside of their home state. Wouldn’t fans want to see Daniel Wells running down the wing, or Mark Williams kicking goals from the pocket as well?
AFL has been termed a national competition for years, but it couldn’t really be defined as that until now, a time when players from all over Australia play together. The fans are ready for State of Origin, as are the players; now it’s time to work out when and where.