AFL great Garry Lyon lashes Origin 'disgrace' amid remarks from NRL legend Billy Slater

An annoyed Lyon has taken out his anger on the 18 AFL clubs.

AFL legend Garry Lyon insists the sport is missing out on a golden opportunity by refusing to revisit the idea of bringing back State of Origin footy. Lyon's gripe comes after comments from Maroons coach and NRL great Billy Slater about the players being in service to the game, and before the rival code gets set to descend on the AFL's home of footy on June 26 for Game II of its own Origin series at the MCG.

Lyon knows better than most about the passion and excitement around the AFL's version of State of Origin after captaining Victoria during his heyday. And the Melbourne Demons legend believes the AFL is missing a trick and giving the NRL a massive leg-up by not bringing back the beloved interstate concept often referred to as 'state vs state, mate vs mate'.

Pictured left to right is AFL great Garry Lyon and Maroons Origin coach Billy Slater.
Garry Lyon has latched onto comments from Billy Slater in a stunning slap-down for the AFL about not bringing back State of Origin footy. Pic: Getty

The Origin series is one of the biggest events on the rugby league calendar every year and the TV viewership numbers alone should make the AFL's top brass sit up and take notice. The matches attract sell-out crowds without fail and the build-up and excitement to the annual series is something that NRL fans look forward to every year.

Lyon played in numerous contests for Victoria after making his Origin debut in 1988, and played against a South Australia side the following year alongside AFL legends Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall and Dermott Brereton - who were all in the same formidable forward line. Some of the AFL's Origin contests - particularly in the 1980s - were regarded amongst the best exhibitions of footy ever witnessed in the game but the AFL decided to scrap the interstate spectacle in 1999.

Supporters like Lyon have been campaigning for the return of the AFL's version of State of Origin ever since. But there has been a reluctance from clubs to release players for what has traditionally been a one-off game, fearful that they might pick up injuries that would hamper the club's AFL premiership hopes.

One solution would be to hold Origin at the end of the AFL season, like the NRL had to do during the Covid pandemic. Bringing back the beloved concept could see young guns like West Coast sensation Harley Reid and Collingwood's Nick Daicos join forces for Victoria to take on South Australian-born superstars such as two-time Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale and Crows gun, Izak Rankine.


Maroons coach Slater said the "game owns the players" ahead of his Queensland side's quest for a third straight Origin series triumph. And Lyon jumped on that comment by describing it as "an unmitigated disgrace that we don’t have State of Origin football" in the AFL, as the NRL gets ready to capitalise on a full house at the MCG next month for Game II in its interstate series.

“I know people say, ‘you’re flogging a dead horse’," Lyon said on SEN. “It’s an out and out disgrace that we don’t have it. I’m embarrassed that we don’t. We gave it up, we ceded control of the golden ticket and now they’re going to wander into our town in the middle of the football season and have 95,000 people watching their State or Origin while we play tiddlywinks in the corner.”

Lyon pointed his anger squarely at the AFL's 18 clubs for holding back the reintroduction of State of Origin footy and said they needed to stop being so selfish and started giving fans what they want. “On June 26, it’s Victoria versus whoever, Harley Reid would be playing for Victoria, Nick Daicos would be playing for Victoria, Zak Butters would be playing for Victoria,” he said. “Tell me why we don’t have that in our game? It is a disgrace!

Nick Daicos and Harley Reid could join forces for a powerful Victoria side if the AFL brought back State of Origin. Pic: Getty
Nick Daicos and Harley Reid could join forces for a powerful Victoria side if the AFL brought back State of Origin. Pic: Getty

“Didn’t you hear Billy Slater? The game owns the players. Give something back. The clubs’ entitled view on things - look beyond it. It’s beyond you. Grow this game. We are getting taken over by the game in the northern states in the eyes of the country. We will become a little, small game and code again that pleases ourselves when we had the capacity to please the broader community.

“Reid, Daicos, Butters against Gulden, Heeney, Warner, all playing at the elite top level. Their CVs are worse off for not having been able to establish themselves in this games at that level. Those that run the game, you have let us down badly.”