Darren Lockyer hits back after Cameron Smith's call for State of Origin change

A number of Queensland greats have differing opinions about when the State of Origin series should be played.

Darren Lockyer and Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith and Darren Lockyer have differing opinions about when State of Origin should be played. Image: Getty

Queensland legends Wally Lewis and Darren Lockyer have shot down calls for the State of Origin series to be moved from its customary timeslot in the middle of the NRL season. Currently played on three Wednesday nights between round 13 and 20, the Origin series sees NRL teams forced to play without their representative stars and severely affects the competition.

Many have called for Origin to be played at the end of the NRL season, as we saw in 2020 due to the Covid pandemic. That would mean teams aren't weakened when their best players are on Origin duty, and would result in a more accurate ladder at the end of the regular season.

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But according to Lewis, who is regarded as one of Queensland's best ever players, shifting the Origin series to after the grand final would be 'dangerous' for players whose teams don't make the finals. "If you haven't played for four or five're not going to be at your best," he told Wide World of Sports this week. "I just think it's too dangerous, because not every representative player comes out of finals teams."

Last week former Queensland captain Cameron Smith called for Origin to stay in the middle of the season, but suggested it should be played on three consecutive weekends while NRL games are put on hold. Smith floated the idea of an expanded representative round that would feature Test matches between Pacific nations.

"I do understand the call for a change in the scheduling," he said on SEN radio. "I've heard people say let's just play the competition out and play Origin at the end of the year. But the risk you have at the end of the year I believe is how many players will be available?

"You run the risk of guys playing throughout the year, maybe they're playing with a busted shoulder, an issue with their knee or ankle, or some part of their body that by the time you get to the end of the season, your club has you booked in for some sort of surgery, or rest, or maybe both to get you ready. Others have suggested let's halt the competition. I'd say if there was any change to the scheduling, that would be the one easiest to do – the mid-season representative period."

Darren Lockyer and Wally Lewis.
Darren Lockyer and Wally Lewis have rejected calls to move the State of Origin series. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Darren Lockyer shoots down calls to change Origin series

But fellow Queensland great Lockyer said he didn't see a need for change. "Rugby league gets so much coverage over that period, I just think we've got to make it work the way it is now," he told WWOS. "Penrith rested all their Origin players (in round 20 against the Dolphins). They won, and they're still sitting on top of the table, so it's possible to do. Clubs need to … get their head around it and get better at it."

A number of NRL clubs have reportedly expressed their desire for the Origin period to be changed or shortened. “The clubs want it condensed into three weeks or four weeks,” leading journalist Phil Rothfield said on Sky Sports radio.

“No club has a licencing agreement beyond October. Peter V’landys says he’s going to review scheduling at the end of the year, but the clubs are worried because the NRL are in the process of doing next year’s draw, so whether they’ll do it in time and condense it the way they like it is debatable.

“There’s four clubs - Panthers, Cowboys, Broncos and Rabbitohs - that supplied 21 players to Origin over the eight weeks, but three clubs (Sharks, Dragons and Warriors) supplied two between them. So it does affect the integrity of the competition."

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