Far be it from me to be the wet blanket that covers the Blues victory in the 3rd and meaningless State of Origin game on Wednesday night, but I figured that after my indifference to especially game 3 now was as good a time as any to go on a mini rant.
Yes, I know the last 10 years that NSW has been crushed in this series and that its been a ‘here we go again’ mentality when it comes to the competiveness of NSW. Thurston, Smith, Cronk and Co have had their way with us, just that alone got old real quick. But for me, its more than that, yes we won game 3, yippee, and you could argue I’ve got a hangover from my beloved Manly and their struggles this year, I’ll accept that, but Rugby League as a spectacle looks to be in trouble.
The fact that the State of Origin is the centerpiece of the sport; if I was the NRL I’d be worried. I can’t give you statistics on crowd numbers and TV ratings, why, because I can’t be bothered looking them up, to me that doesn’t matter, I’m just giving you my ‘eye test’, what I’m watching on TV and how it translates into my messy living room.
The game is predictable, frustratingly so. No team seems to play any different than the other; perhaps some teams (see Tigers) throw it around a bit more but almost every set of six is the same. Run it up for five, player gets wrestled, very little passing, kick on tackle six. Player receiving the ball gets surrounded, other team runs it up for five, more wrestling, one pass or two, kick it downfield on the sixth. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
I watched a game of Rugby Union the other day, and shock horror, I saw passing, lots of it, no really it exists, from sideline to sideline even, it was beautiful to watch. The skill from League dare I say it, from the ‘old days’ seems to have been throttled out of the game. I know todays players are bigger, faster, stronger, training has improved, understanding of nutrition, players don’t hammer nails during the day and train by night anymore, its more professional I get it, but I sure do miss the magic of Andrew Johns, Cliffy Lyons, and even Benji Marshall, there is no unpredictability, its all structure and most games are an arm wrestle, damn that Bellamy.
I don’t mind State of Origin when it’s a low-scoring tussle, it can build tension until something bursts, and that’s ok, but its not required viewing, like it once was. Ah yes, the 80’s and 90’s, today you won’t see Geyer vs. Lewis; the bus drive past The Caxton or Dave Gillespie lay someone out. Call me a dinosaur but I do miss the shoulder charge, I know it’s a fine line and nobody wants to see Josh Dugan with a broken jaw but when Trevor Gillmeister or Les Davidson dropped the hammer it was a wow moment.
I know from a historical perspective the NRL will never change the rules in a big way to bring back the attacking ‘flair’, such as cut run-on teams from 13 to 12 or expand the 10 metre ruck to 15 to open the game up, they could at least have players behind the clearing kicker to allow wingers and fullbacks more room to move and don’t even get me started on scrums.
To answer my own question, is State of Origin dead? The answer is no, its probably not even on life-support but Rugby League is at least in the ambulance on the way to hospital.