Why rugby union needs a little State of Origin madness in its life

Wallabies captain Michael Hooper is pictured on the left, and Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans on the right celebrates with fans.
Rugby Australia could learn some lessons from the State of Origin spectacle, Adam Lucius believes. Pictures: Getty Images

Rugby Australia should immediately dispatch a copy of Wednesday night's State of Origin to the ostriches at World Rugby HQ with the following message, preferably written in caps: "NOW DO YOU SEE WHAT WE'RE UP AGAINST?!"

Queensland's epic win over NSW in Origin III captured a massive TV audience, dominated newspaper space and electronic media coverage the next morning on the east coast and again had AFL types lamenting the death of the Origin concept they invented – and then carelessly discarded.

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The game had everything.

It was brutal, it was tough, it was controversial, it was non-stop, it was emotional and it was in doubt right until the last couple of minutes.

The biff returned and, hey what do ya know, no-one got killed.

As Cameron Smith said in commentary: "It was like a game from the 80s."

Andrew Johns, before the dummy spit, added: "There's only a certain number of players who can play this game.

"Some of these performances are super-human."

It was one of rugby league's greatest moments, but awful timing for rugby union.

They are, of course, different codes with different rules.

But they're also competing for eyeballs in the world's most crowded football space.

And that seems to be a notion World Rugby, wrapped in its northern hemisphere cocoon, neither cares about or acknowledges.

Origin has left the Wallabies-England series for dead.

It is everything rugby isn’t at the moment – a fast, frenetic, edge-of-your-seat adventure where the rules aren’t thrown out the window but are left resting on the ledge.

Most Origin referees realise the game is ruled differently to your average club game and the authorities allow a little license, knowing a stop-start affair with pedantic officiating will kill off what marketing people like to call "the product"

It's a concept World Rugby hasn't been able to get its head around.

World rugby must learn lessons from State of Origin

Most Test matches are strangled by laws so complex you'd need Eddie Woo to break it down for you.

You could cook a roast dinner and eat it during any one of rugby's numerous stoppages, whether it be for reforming a scrum, listening to the TMO babble on, checking a try or waiting for a player to put his boot back on or be tended to by the medicos.

During last weekend's Test in Brisbane, there were drinks breaks in either half.

Yes, drinks breaks at night in the middle of winter. WTF?

The Queensland team celebrates after winning the 2022 State of Origin series.
The State of Origin spectacle has shown what world rugby needs to do in order to compete with rugby league. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Players are routinely being sent off for accidental head clashes as litigation-wary officials demand perfection from players going 100 miles an hour in a contact sport.

Or, if they're not being red-carded, they are sat down for 10 minutes for dropping an intercept.

Rugby, whether it likes it or not, is in the entertainment business in this part of the world.

At the moment it's not winning the PR battle in Australia or New Zealand.

It's a wonderful game played by some remarkable athletes when allowed to flourish.

It just needs to release the handbrake a little and let a little Origin madness into its world.

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