New South Wales beat Queensland in Sheffield Shield cricket in Adelaide last weekend by hanging on to win by one solitary wicket. Queensland beat NSW 18 to 14 in a stunning second-half comeback, again in Adelaide. A great State rivalry.
Across at the beach of Glenelg, South Australia hung on to draw a game of cricket on Monday against Victoria who across 4 days dominated SA losing 3 wickets while SA lost 18. However, unlike Rugby, there is no end of season AFL football match honouring the best players of each State.
So how is it that Rugby League has honoured its best for 40 years of origin, yet the AFL has not played since 1999 ? State games have been played since between SANFL, WAFL and VFL, but not including AFL contracted players.
The answers are probably numerous and complex. Clearly, the first is the AFL clubs do not want ‘their players’ to participate. Secondly, the AFL supports projects that are in the interests of building the AFL. With State of Origin there is a view that it devalues State AFL club rivalries. A third reason that the fans have not lobbied hard enough for it.
In a bygone era before the VFL became the AFL in 1990, State of Origin Football between SA and Victoria was the subject of folklore. It was an era where the VFL and SA State leagues had personalities that ‘played for the jumper’, the navy and white ‘Big V’ or the Croweater Red, Gold and Navy.
Teddy Whitten and Neil Kerley epitomised the rivalry and respect in State football in the 1960’s. State footy was seen as the pinnacle of ones career. Proudly, ‘Knuckles’ played 32 state games for SA and ‘Mr. Football’ 29 for Victoria. In 1995, shortly before Teddy’s death, Kerley and Whitten embraced at the MCG in front of 62,000 adoring Victorian fans and the players obliged by thrashing the Croweaters by 63 points.
Another reason for State of Origins demise is the rules surrounding eligibility to play. SA cried foul when Terry Daniher from Ungarie in NSW, Jason Dunstall from Brisbane and Jim Stynes from Ireland got to play for Victoria. One would say that their home club of origin should have made then ineligible. SA had its own complexities with WA, NSW, NT and even ex Victorian born players pulling on the Croweater tri colours.
But the 1980’s were a golden era for SA versus Victoria games played at Footy Park in the Adelaide suburb of West Lakes. Kernahan, Motley, Plattern, Bradley and Bruce Lindsay taking it up to the Big V and at times winning. Watching the 1984 game on a Tuesday night with Kerna’s kicking 10 goals and SA still losing (robbed), then getting up the following morning and going to work, a fabulous memory of my youth. Or who can forget the Tony Hall pocket goal which gave SA victory just before the final siren at West Lakes.
It is clear that I am living in the past when it comes to State of Origin. It won’t happen again and even if it does, it won’t be the same. We have moved on. We have a national football competition and teams from States have rivalries. Port and Brisbane, Collingwood and West Coast, West Coast and Sydney.
But the best football that I have seen was State footy. Perhaps, Tuesday night at the Adelaide Oval could have featured the Big V’s Dustin Martin, Pendlebry and Dangerfield taking on Grundy, Shane Edwards and Lachie Neale.
Now thats an origin-al idea!