The reason why State of Origin always starts so late: 'Pretty poor'

·3-min read
Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Damien Cook, pictured here before the start of State of Origin Game I.
Nathan Cleary, Isaah Yeo and Damien Cook look on before the start of State of Origin Game I. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

It’s the only thing Queensland and NSW fans agree on when they go at each other at State of Origin time – why do we have to wait so bloody long for games to kick-off?

Wednesday night's series opener began at 8.15pm – 75 minutes after Channel 9's coverage commenced.

The only things not interviewed during the excruciating pre-game show were the corner posts and Gatorade bottles.

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The first half finished at 9pm and the second half didn’t kick off until around 9.17pm.

It was around 10.10pm when referee Ashley Klein called a half to proceedings – a couple of seconds too early for NSW's liking, but too late for thousands of young kids watching from home.

If the game hadn’t been so frenetic and free of major hold-ups, we'd quite possibly still be waiting for the full-time hooter.

The Matty White Show on Radio SEN (Sydney) on Tuesday morning was inundated with calls from irate fans complaining about the kick-off time.

They station ended up running a 'closest to the pin' competition, asking supporters to predict the exact time the match would get underway.

That's how much of a moveable feast it is.

The game's most valuable commodity – the fans - are pissed off.

So, you have to ask: What would Nine actually lose by starting the game at 7.30pm or 7.45pm?

Plenty, according to's Steve Molk.

"It's mostly about ratings and blocking out the opposition," he told Yahoo Sport Australia.

"The 8pm kick-off is for Nine to draw in as big an audience as it can across the night.

"Running the game earlier would make for a gap later in the night for another network to possibly get a foot in ratings-wise.

"This start at 8pm is designed to block out the night for Nine."

Daly Cherry-Evans, pictured here leading out Queensland for Game I of the State of Origin series.
Daly Cherry-Evans leads out Queensland for Game I of the State of Origin series. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Why does State of Origin always start so late?

Molk doesn't sheet home all the blame to Channel 9 for the late start, pointing out live events are a time-conscious director's biggest enemy.

The pre-game entertainment, Welcome to Country and national anthem all have to be factored in, but don't always run to schedule.

Molk said: "The game starting as late as it did was in part understandable and in part pretty poor.

"Some more rigour is required by whoever is directing the live event portion of the broadcast.

"There's a lot that goes on at the game live that can easily milk time.

"It ran very late last night and a lot of the pre-game coverage was very average."

While Nine predictably won the ratings across the three key age demographics – as you would expect as the sole broadcaster – the suits in sales were dealing with more than corporate box hangovers on Thursday morning.

The game attracted a metro ratings audience of 1.771m, down from the 1.911m who tuned in to last year's opening game.

Covid may have played its part, with fans forced to watch from home in 2021 rather than at pubs or friends' places.

But it continues a general decline in free-to-air viewership – regardless of what time the referee blows his whistle.

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