'Hooked me in': How will WA fans react to State of Origin return?

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Queensland celebrate winning Game 1 of State of Origin.
Game 2 of State of Origin will be held at Optus Stadium in Perth. (Getty Images)

Trevor Robb lobbed in Australia as a young boy, not knowing rugby league even existed.

There was only one football god in Robb's life, and he kicked a round ball for a mob by the name of Manchester United.

George Best remains his hero to this day – the off-field "career" only adding to the Northern Irishman's legend – but life changed in an unexpected way one sunny winter's afternoon in Sydney's south.

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Taking his thick Northern Irish accent with him to Endeavour Field in the mid-70s, young Robb happened upon the Cronulla Sharks on one of their "on" days.

He was transfixed.

"I didn’t know a lot about the game that day but I couldn’t take my eyes off the number three for Cronulla," he told Yahoo Sports Australia, nearly five decades later.

"I just knew by the way he moved he was something special. You could just tell by the way the crowd reacted each time he got the ball that he was a class above the average.

"He hooked me in"

Robb wasn't the first fan to fall in love with rugby league thanks to Steve Rogers, but the bond isn’t as strong as it once was following a move to Western Australia 23 years ago.

Rugby league has been largely out of sight, out of mind in WA since the Western Reds folded in 1997.

The likes of Robb and thousands of eastern state expats have either drifted away from the game or lived off the few scraps thrown their way by clubs shifting home games to Perth on the back of state government inducements.

State of Origin returns to Perth

The rugby league caravan makes a brief stop again on Sunday when Origin II is played at the impressive Optus Stadium – a sell-out crowd going with the 60,000 who poured into watch game two in 2019.

It's again led to talk the NRL should venture back into this forgotten frontier and plant an 18th team in a state which has shown a clear appetite for the game.

The only question is: what would the new franchise look like?

North Sydney Bears chairman Daniel Dickson is in town with former star Billy Moore, spruiking the red and blacks as a viable partner for any WA consortium.

The plan involves dropping the "North Sydney" from their name but playing a handful of games each year back at North Sydney Oval.

Daly Cherry-Evans (pictured left) and coach and Billy Slater (pictured right) during a State of Origin media opportunity at Forrest Place on June 25, 2022 in Perth, Australia.
Daly Cherry-Evans (pictured left) and coach and Billy Slater (pictured right) during a State of Origin media opportunity at Forrest Place on June 25, 2022 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Dickson is open to any avenue back to the big time but warned his club would "not prostitute" its logo, colours, history, heritage or song.

So where does that leave a Perth-backed bid, which will surely insist it adopts its own identity to win over the most parochial fan base in the country?

Sports-mad Robb, having spent his adult life in either NSW or WA, is a great barometer to the mood among fans.

"They definitely would want a stand-alone club. They won't cop a hybrid," he said.

"There's a lot of interest in the game over here but it won't work if they split the home games.

"They just won’t get the support they're looking for."

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