Should State of Origin be here to stay?

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The ‘Dream Team’ poses for a photo prior to the Hall of Fame Tribute Match at the MCG. (Photo by: David Callow/AFL Photos)

Last week the AFL announced that they will be holding a ‘State of Origin’ match between Victoria and the All Stars, which will raise funds for disaster relief following the devastating bushfires that have engulfed the country.

It’s an appropriate incentive at a great time of need, and will be a spectacle that will see some of the competition’s biggest names face off at Marvel Stadium on February 28th.

So here we go, the AFL has long relucted the temptation of the State of Origin format, which was last seen in 1999 when Victoria and South Australia played at the MCG; whilst Victoria played the Dream Team in the Hall of Fame Tribute Match in 2008.

The question that no doubt many others are asking, could this be the beginning of representative football returning to the AFL?

Victoria versus an All Stars line-up comprised of the AFL’s best outside of Victoria doesn’t quite meet the sentiment of state versus state competition, but it’s the best way of gauging if the idea has some merit, and it avoids having to decide between South Australia and Western Australia as Victoria’s opponent.

Some people are totally against the State of Origin concept, and I’m sure AFL coaches would deservedly so have their reservations.

What about injuries? Imagine the drama it would cause if a star player went down with a season-ending injury in a representative match before round one.

The solution is simple, put the choice of playing in the player’s hands.

Given the option, you would be hard-pressed to find many player’s knocking back the opportunity to pull on the jumper of their home state; and if so, they simply don’t get that honour.

A Victorian, South Australian, Western Australian and Allies ‘Team of the Year’ could be announced at the conclusion of every AFL season, similar to that of how the All-Australian selection is currently done.

Players would get an accolade on their career CV, and have the opportunity to play alongside players they normally would square-off against; 44 of the competitions best players going head-to-head, you could even have extended benches if you wanted to keep the player’s workload down, it’s a mouth-watering prospect.

Players from the Northern Territory, NSW, Queensland and Tasmania comprise the Allies squad, but would still be recognised as a representative of their home state on their resume; which ensures they are still representing their state and have just as much to play for.

They could even have the emblem of their home state imprinted on their Allies jersey.

Of course nothing runs this smoothly, and I’m writing this with countless ideas in my head as to how this could possibly work; there is a huge possibility that this game may simply be a one-off for a great cause, and if so that’s okay.

The AFL is such a brilliant and strong competition, and the entertainment factor is always outstanding, but does it border on being a little one-dimensional? Especially when you compare it with other leagues like the NRL and the NBA, who’s representative matches are as enticing as the larger competition itself.

Every other major sporting code gives players the opportunity to represent their state, country or conference (in the case of the NBA).

We obviously see it in the NRL with New South Wales versus Queensland, which is only trumped by the NRL Grand Final, the NBA sees players named to represent both the Eastern and Western Conference before playing off in the All Star Game and leagues like the NBL, A-League and even EPL all give players the opportunity to represent their country if good enough.

There is obviously no such lure for players in the AFL to represent their country, aside from the ‘International Rules’ series played against Ireland, which itself is a cross between Australian Rules Football and Gaelic Football.

Whether it be a yearly one-off match in the pre-season between Victoria and the All Stars, or a three game series that may see South Australia versus Western Australia, Victoria versus The Allies and then a final – the excitement this would generate in the build-up to round one would be immense; providing the players buy into it.

It’s a provocative discussion for sure, but let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to see the competition’s best players in action all at once?

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