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Rugby league State of Origin

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Rugby league State of Origin

State of Origin
Current season or competition:
2013 State of Origin series
Sport Rugby league football
Instituted 1982
Inaugural season 1980
Number of teams 2
Country  Australia (ARL)
Shield Holders Queensland (2013)
Most titles Queensland (18 titles)
Website Official State of Origin website
Broadcast partner Nine Network
Related competitions City vs Country Origin
Super League Tri-series

State of Origin is the annual best-of-three series of rugby league football matches between the Blues and the Maroons, who represent the Australian states of New South Wales and Queensland, respectively.[1] Touted as Australian sport's greatest rivalry,[2][3][4][5][6] the State of Origin series is one of the country's and the region's premier sporting events, attracting a huge television audience and usually selling out the stadiums in which the games are played.[7] Despite the existence of international tournaments and State of Origin being a domestic competition, it is frequently cited as being the highest-level of rugby league played anywhere in the world.[8][9][10][11]

Players are selected to represent the Australian state in which they played their first senior rugby league, hence the name 'state of origin'. Prior to 1980 players were only selected for interstate matches on the basis of where they were playing their club football at the time. In both 1980 and 1981 there were two interstate matches under the old selection rules and one experimental "State of Origin" match. From 1982 onwards a best-of-three match series has been played around the middle of the rugby league season for the State of Origin shield. Since its inception, total victories for each side were once extraordinarily even; although since 2006, Queensland have won every series.


Since 1908 Australia's two major rugby league-playing states, New South Wales and Queensland, have played representative matches against each other and this has continued into the "state of origin" era which began in the 1980s. The two states' teams are frequently referred to as the Blues and Maroons, reflecting the respective colours of their jerseys. The Blues team is administered by the New South Wales Rugby League and the Maroons by the Queensland Rugby League. Players of the New South Wales team are sometimes referred to as the cockroaches and the Queensland team as the cane toads, due to a marketing campaign used in the 1980s where the respective teams were depicted by caricatures in such a manner.

Whilst other Australian states have also had representative rugby league sides, they have not competed in State of Origin.


Interstate Rugby League Prior to 1980

The first calls for a state of origin selection policy in interstate rugby football came before the schism between the union and league codes eventuated in Australia. In 1900 a journalist known as 'The Cynic' wrote in The Referee that star rugby player and recent immigrant to Queensland, Stephen Spragg, should be able to play for his home state of New South Wales.[3]

Since the beginning of Australian rugby league in 1908, an interstate competition between New South Wales and Queensland has been conducted from time to time. Until 1982 each team drew its players from the clubs based in that state. No consideration was given to the origins of the players themselves.[4]

The first of these interstate games was played at Sydney's Agricultural Ground on 11 July 1908, before Queensland had even commenced its club competition. New South Wales easily accounted for Queensland in a 43–0 victory. The local media were unimpressed.

There can be no doubt the NSW men are improving a good deal... They cannot be blamed for the farce, for it was nothing else. If the Australian team depends on Queenslanders to strengthen it, one is afraid it will be found wanting. They are quite the weakest lot of footballers I have even seen come down from Queensland. The play needs no detailed description as it was simply a practice match for NSW, and certainly did not advantageously advertise the new game.
-The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1908[5]

The interstate series was dominated by New South Wales, apart from a golden period for Queensland in the 1920s. From 1922 to 1925 Queensland defeated New South Wales 11 times in 12 matches. At the end of the 1925 season a Kangaroo team was to be picked for touring Great Britain. Instead of announcing an Australian team dominated by Queenslanders, the Australian Rugby League Board of Control informed the media that the Rugby Football League had decided that the Kiwis would provide stronger opposition, and that there would be no Australian tour.[6] The period spanning 1922 to 1929 saw no Australian team play in Great Britain, the only such hiatus outside the two World Wars.[7]

The New South Wales dominance of interstate football increased after 1956 when gaming machines were legalised for all registered clubs in New South Wales. This provided New South Wales football clubs with a revenue source unmatched by Queensland clubs. From this time on an increasing number of Queensland players moved to the much stronger Sydney competition, becoming ineligible for Queensland state selection. Paul Hogan famously told a Queensland Rugby League gathering in 1977 that "every time Queensland produces a good footballer, he finishes up being processed through a New South Wales poker machine."[8]

Prior to 1956, NSW had won 75% and Qld only 25% of series played. From 1956–1981, NSW dominance soared even higher and Qld wins dwindled to only 3.8% with only 1 series win, in 1959.

The Conception of State of Origin football

By the 1970s the prestige of interstate matches had been seriously downgraded. Matches were played mid-week, so as not to interfere with the Sydney club competition, and the small crowds in New South Wales were hosted at suburban grounds.[12] Interstate football reached its nadir in 1977 when the New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL) declined to host the Queensland team, and both interstate games were played in Queensland.[9]

Former Queensland captain and Australian vice-captain Jack Reardon, who had later become a journalist, was the first to suggest that Sydney-based Queenslanders should be available for selection to represent their state.[13]

Brisbane Courier-Mail reporter Hugh Lunn, Barry Maranta (the future co-founder of the Brisbane Broncos) [10] and Maranta's business partner Wayne Reid played a part in persuading QRL chairman Ron McAullife that the concept could be used in rugby league.[11] Lunn told McAullife that "you can take the Queenslander out of Queensland, Ron, but you can't take the Queensland out of the Queenslander."[12] McAuliffe was initially sceptical. "What if we recall our boys from Sydney to play, and we are beaten. Where would we go from there?" Reid spoke to NSWRFL president Kevin Humphreys and suggested that a one-off state of origin match could be used as a Test Match selection trial. [13]

New South Wales clubs were reticent in their support of the concept and set two conditions:

  • If the third game was to decide the series it was not to act as a selection trial, and
  • that the expatriate Queenslanders would be under the supervision of a representative of the NSWRFL whose duty it would be to protect the interests of both the NSWRFL and the clubs to which they were contracted. (From 1980 this role was filled by Bob Abbot, a Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks official.)

Three Sydney clubs remained opposed to the plan: St. George Dragons, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Eastern Suburbs Roosters. As these clubs were refusing to release players, Humphreys threatened to make the game an official Australian Rugby League trial, which would make release mandatory. The clubs backed down. [14]


After Queensland lost the first two interstate matches in 1980 (35–3 and 17–7, the second game in front of only 1,638 Sydneysiders) it was announced that a 'state of origin' match would take place on 8 July at Lang Park in Brisbane. The New South Wales media gave both the event, and Queensland's chance of winning it, little credence, calling the game a "three day wonder". Australia's 1978 captain Bob Fulton called the match "the non-event of the century". Ron MacAullife however, was now committed to the concept and vigorously promoted the match. Thousands of tickets were sold before the game had been officially sanctioned. Although interstate matches in Brisbane had still been well attended (24,653 had attended the opening match of the 1979 series), few expected the sell-out crowd of 33,210 Queensland rugby league fans, delighted to see their heroes in the likes of Arthur Beetson representing their home state for the first time ever. Queensland convincingly beat New South Wales 20–10.[15]

I was strongly against such a match, but last night's gripping clash showed that such a fixture would be a welcome addition to the League program.[14]

— Alan Clarkson, journalist for The Sydney Morning Herald, 6 October 1980

In 1981 the first two interstate matches were again played under the old selection rules. As New South Wales won the first two matches in the series, state of origin selection rules were used once more in the third match. Although New South Wales ran out to an early 15–0 lead in the game, Queensland rallied to win 22–15.


The interest generated by the experimental state of origin matches of 1980 and 1981 and the potential for financial rewards were enough to convince the authorities to play all three games under state of origin rules the following year.[16]

The State of Origin format is the only possible way to allow the interstate series to survive.

Frank Hyde (2 June 1982)[15]

Despite the Maroons' success so far in the State of Origin experiments, the New South Wales media dismissed the seriousness of the Queensland threat to the Blues' long-held dominance in series wins. Queensland however, under the leadership of immortal captain Wally Lewis, was inspired by this, and for the first three State of Origin series Queensland won 2 matches to 1.

However, in 1985, under the leadership of captain Steve Mortimer, New South Wales won the deciding match in front of 29,068 spectators at the Sydney Cricket Ground, claiming the series for the first time. The following year the Blues were able to go one better and complete the first state of origin whitewash, taking the series 3–0.[17]


Barry Gomersall, from Sarina, Queensland (1945–2007) was notorious for his refereeing of nine State of Origin matches between 1982 and 1988. Queensland rugby league team won seven of those matches, leading to accusations of bias and match-fixing. Gomersall himself did little to disassociate himself from those claims, famously referring to the only two matches under his control won by New South Wales rugby league team; "Surely anyone's entitled to two bad games" .[16]

1987: American controversy

After Queensland had won the 1987 series 2–1, a fourth game was played at Long Beach, California to showcase rugby league to the American public.[18]

In Origin: Rugby League's Greatest Contest 1980–2002 (2003) Queensland writer Jack Gallaway tells a story:

There was one additional Origin contest played in 1987. The Queenslanders had climbed the mountain and at no point did they take the project seriously in any competitive sense. The State of Origin trophy was safely stowed in the Queensland Rugby League board room at Lang Park, and for the Maroons the visit to the United States was their end-of-season outing, the game an exhibition... Such was the Blues' disappointment at the loss of the State of Origin series that they would go to any length to restore some vestige of their lost pride. The New South Wales Rugby League hierarchy told their men to prepare for the contest as though it was a deciding test match.[19] The match was played at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach, California in front of 12,349 fans. The Blues won the game 30–18.

In 1987 the Australian Rugby League (ARL), New South Wales Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League agreed that the match would count towards the players' individual statistics. On 15 July 2003 the Australian Rugby League announced that the fourth 1987 game was to be classified as an official match, and that a win in the state of origin match on 16 July 2003 would take New South Wales into the overall lead.

ARL chief executive Geoff Carr said: "There had been some debate over whether the Origin fixture . . . in 1987 was counted as an official match but a search of ARL records has confirmed the status conferred on that clash by the game's governing body at the time. In announcing the match in Big League in April 1987, Ken Arthurson, the ARL's chief executive in 1987, was quoted as saying 'It's an exciting experiment but the match isn't and won't be billed as an exhibition match'."

1990s: The Super League War

After the controversy of the match played in the United States, the Queensland halves pairing of Allan Langer and Wally Lewis led the Maroons in their 3–0 series wins in both 1988 and 1989. The rise of the Canberra Raiders in the then Winfield Cup club competition produced for the Blues the formidable halves combination of Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley who brought New South Wales back from defeat with two wins in the opening games of the 1990 series. It was evident that as the rivalry between the two states grew, the Origin matches had become much more physical forward orientated game than the open running play seen in earlier series.[20]

As the great Queensland players from the 1980s began to retire from the game, the Maroons struggled with a team of fresh faces and considerable inexperience. The 1992, 1993 and 1994 series all went to NSW as the talent and experience of Blues players such as Brett Mullins, Daley and Stuart in the backs and Benny Elias and Bradley Clyde in the forwards gave the Blues the edge when the games were on the line. It wasn't until the upheaval of the Super League war in 1995 that the Maroons were able to again clinch a series.

A main cause for concern for Queensland was the fact that the Brisbane Broncos, its players and many other Queenslanders were not aligned with the ARL prohibiting any players signed with the Super League to play for the Maroons. Despite this the Queenslanders won the 1995 series 3–0 in a shocking white-wash. The 1996 series saw the off-field contract dramas put aside as all players were allowed, regardless of contract, state of origin selection. Having the majority of the Queenslanders back didn't help the Maroons though as the Blues 1996 white-wash with a 3–0 series win of their own.

The Australian game divided in 1997 into two competitions, one run by the ARL and one by the News Limited-owned Super League, and an interstate series was played in each. Under the Super League banner there was a Tri-Origin series with a New Zealand side added to the competition. The ARL meanwhile stuck to its traditional format. The competitions merged again in 1998 as the current National Rugby League, and the series that year proved to be enthralling as both sides won a game each a way from home, setting up a decider at the Sydney Football Stadium where 39,000 fans witnessed the visiting Queenslanders take the series 2–1. The end of the decade saw a dramatic series with each side taking one game each and game three ending in a draw. Queensland were awarded the series as at the time the previous winners retained the interstate honours.


The 2008 series was won by Queensland making it three series in a row. New South Wales won Game 1 on 21 May 2008, however Queensland won Game 2 on 11 June 2008, and also Game 3 on 2 July 2008. Queensland followed this up by winning the first two games of the 2009 series becoming the first state to win four series in a row.


Queensland won its historic, record breaking, fifth consecutive Origin series with a 23–18 win in the third and final match of the State of Origin, 2010. This was the first Queensland team to win all three consecutive State of Origin Games in 15 years. Queensland full back Billy Slater won man of the match in the third game and was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal as Man of the Series in 2010.

The 2010 State of Origin series was also the second televised program in Australia to be shot in 3D 1080i DVB-T as well as being simultaneously broadcast in regular 576i and 1080i DVB-T and PAL.

In the first game of the 2011 series Queensland defeated New South Wales 16–12. In the second game of the 2011 series New South Wales defeated Queensland 18–8. Queensland won the series 34–24 in the 2011 decider in what was Queensland captain Darren Lockyer's 36th and final game. Cameron Smith won man of the match in both the first and third game and was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal as Man of the Series.

In 2012, then CEO David Gallop introduced the Under-20s State of Origin for Toyota Cup players which saw New South Wales winning.[17] Queensland went on to win an historic 7th series win in 2012, winning the final game by 1 point.

In 2013, New South Wales defeated Queensland 14 to 6 in game 1, Queensland defeated New South Wales 26 to 6 in game 2, while in game 3; Queensland defeated New South Wales 12 to 10 to take out the overall Origin title for the eighth consecutive time. The 2013 series set a new State of Origin television ratings record for a whole series since the 2001 introduction of the ratings system.[18]


Despite being contested by only two states, the series is one of the most popular sporting events in Australia. In 2013, each individual game in the series drew a higher Australian television audience than any other sporting event.[19] In recent years the series has gained popularity outside of New South Wales and Queensland, with games played in Melbourne drawing record crowds[20] and local television ratings comparable to those of many Victorian AFL matches.[21]

Internationally, the series is televised in 91 countries,[22] and is a national obsession in Papua New Guinea, occasionally sparking riots, violence and deaths.[23][24] UNAIDS has acknowledged that celebrations surrounding the games present a high-risk setting for the spread of HIV in Papua New Guinea.[25]

Selection rules

Under State of Origin rules players were previously selected for the state in which they first played senior (or registered) rugby league.[21] In 2012, the NSWRL, CRL, QRL and ARLC agreed on new criteria in determining Origin eligibility, to encompass other factors, such as place of birth [22]. Players must also be eligible to represent Australia at international level.


From time to time the selection of players under the State of Origin rules creates controversy.

An issue of contention has been the selection of players such as Peter Sterling, Ken Nagas, James McManus, Israel Folau and Greg Inglis. Folau was born and raised in New South Wales but is eligible to play for Queensland as he played his first senior rugby league match in Queensland. Ken Nagas was born and raised in Queensland but decided to play for New South Wales, Peter Sterling was born in Toowoomba, Queensland and raised in Wagga Wagga, Newcastle & Sydney, all in New South Wales, while McManus was born in Scotland and was raised in the Northern Territory, but was ruled eligible to play for New South Wales in the 2009 series.

The selection of Greg Inglis by Queensland is disputed. The Queensland Rugby League selected him based on the fact that either Wavell State High School or Brisbane Norths was Inglis' first senior football, making him eligible for both states per the rules at the time.[26][27][28] However Inglis had previously played for Hunter Sports High, New South Wales, in the Arrive Alive Cup; considered to be a senior competition. Hunter Sports High coach Steve Dunn said "there was some talk the other day that he was actually brought to Queensland before his 16th birthday but I was coach of the team. He played for us at 16, he's a Blue".[29]

Due to the clarification of selection rules the Sims brothers are eligible for different States. Tariq and Ashton are eligible for New South Wales while Korbin Sims is eligible for Queensland.[30] Previously father and son combinations, such as Steve and Mat Rogers have represented different states. This duo was especially notable because Mat was born in New South Wales and played for Queensland while Steve was born in Queensland and played for New South Wales.

Foreign born players have also represented each state. New Zealand has had several players, such as Brad Thorn, Ben Te'o, Craig Smith, Tonie Carroll, James Tamou and Karmichael Hunt play Origin. Tamou's selection by New South Wales in 2012 was controversial as he was born in Palmerston North, lived in New Zealand until he moved to Sydney when he was 13 and was included in the New Zealand Kiwis training squad for the 2011 Four Nations.[31] Both Hunt and Tamou played for Australia before being selected for State of Origin. Other players, such as Sam Kasiano and Jason Taumalolo are also eligible, creating concern in the New Zealand Rugby League.[32]

Papua New Guinea-born Adrian Lam and Fijian-born Lote Tuqiri, Akuila Uate and Petero Civoniceva have also played Origin. The most recent case of a foreign born player being selected was the selection of former Samoan international, Ben Te'o, by Queensland in game three of the 2012 season.[33]


  1. In 1995 and 1997 Super League players were made ineligible for the ARL State of Origin series selection. This included most of Queensland's usual team, who now played for the Super League affiliated Brisbane Broncos. The ARL hence decided to relax the rules in those years, allowing Queensland to select Adrian Lam who had previously played for Papua New Guinea.
  2. During the 2000 World Cup a number of Australian players were granted dispensations to appear for other nations under the grandparent rule. The players affected were David Barnhill (NSW), Kevin Campion (Qld), Tonie Carroll (Qld), Graham Mackay (NSW), Willie Mason (NSW), Luke Ricketson (NSW), Lote Tuqiri (Qld) and Adrian Vowles (Qld), [23] [24]


For full results and statistics, see Rugby League State of Origin results and statistics

Year by year

Of the 34 full series played to 2013, Queensland have won 20 & New South Wales 12, with 2 series drawn. Queensland have won 53 of the 98 matches, New South Wales winning 43 with two matches being drawn.[34] In the table below, the colour of the year denotes the team that has won or retained the shield.

The series of 1999 and 2002 are considered drawn series, as both New South Wales and Queensland won a single game of each 3 match series, with the final game concluding in a draw. At that time there was no overtime rule to break the deadlock, and by the same set of rules, Queensland retained the shield but did not win the series; as they were the previous holders. Due to controversy around the second drawn series, and the rule awarding the series champions to Queensland, the rules were subsequently changed to rule out drawn matches and series. Equal points at the close of full time are now resolved with the “Golden Point” method.

Year Winner Wins Losses Drawn Shield Holder
1980 Queensland 1 0 0 Queensland
1981 Queensland 1 0 0 Queensland
1982 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
1983 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
1984 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
1985 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
1986 New South Wales 3 0 0 New South Wales
1987 Queensland 2 1[25] 0 Queensland
1988 Queensland 3 0 0 Queensland
1989 Queensland 3 0 0 Queensland
1990 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
1991 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
1992 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
1993 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
1994 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
1995 Queensland 3 0 0 Queensland
1996 New South Wales 3 0 0 New South Wales
1997 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
1998 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
1999 Draw 1 1 1 Queensland
2000 New South Wales 3 0 0 New South Wales
2001 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
2002 Draw 1 1 1 Queensland
2003 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
2004 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
2005 New South Wales 2 1 0 New South Wales
2006 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
2007 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
2008 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
2009 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
2010 Queensland 3 0 0 Queensland
2011 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
2012 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland
2013 Queensland 2 1 0 Queensland

Under 20s

The Under 20s State of Origin has only had two seasons so far (2012 and 2013)[35] with only one game a year, instead of three. New South Wales has won both of them. They play for the Darren Lockyer Shield.

Year Winner Wins Losses Drawn
2012 New South Wales 1 0 0
2013 New South Wales 1 0 0

Super League

In 1997 the rugby league premiership was split between the ARL and Super League. In addition to the ARL's State of Origin, a Super League Tri-series was played between New South Wales, Queensland and New Zealand. The teams were selected using origin rules, and New South Wales and Queensland met twice. These matches do not count towards the official state of origin record.

Individual records



New South Wales

Total State of Origin



New South Wales

  • Most Games – 24 Phil Gould (1992–1996, 2002–2004)
  • Most Wins – 14 Phil Gould (1992–1996, 2002–2004)
  • Most Series Wins – 6 Phil Gould (1992–1994, 1996, 2003–2004)

Total State of Origin

  • Most Games – 24 Mal Meninga (2006–present) (Queensland)
  • Most Wins – 17 Mal Meninga (2006–present) (Queensland)
  • Most Series Wins – 8 Mal Meninga (2006–present) (Queensland)


Broadcasting rights

Setanta Sports broadcasts live matches in Asia.

In the United States, Fox Soccer has televised all matches since 2011.[37][38] Currently, they have an agreement through 2013.

See also



  1. ^
  2. "State of Origin 30 Years: 1980 – 2009" by Liam Hauser, Rockpool Publishing, ISBN13: 9781921295386
  3. "NSW v Queensland: 1908 – 1980" by Sean Fagan, RL1908, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  4. "The First State of Origin" by Sean Fagan, RL1908, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  5. "State of Origin History 1981–2004" by Sean Fagan, RL1908, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  6. "The Origin of State of Origin" by Sean Fagan, RL1908, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. "Overseas Players and State of Origin" by Jeff Wall, Crikey 12 April 2005, Retrieved 18 November 2005
  11. "The Origins of State of Origin" by Jeff Wall, Crikey 23 May 2005, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  12. "We Still Want Hunt" National Rugby League, 21 March 2005, Retrieved 18 November 2005
  13. "How it all began", no date, retrieved 8 May 2007

General records and statistics

  1. "State of Origin 30 Years: 1980 – 2009" by Liam Hauser, Rockpool Publishing, ISBN13: 9781921295386
  2. "State of Origin Results 1980–2005" RL1908, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  3. "History: State of Origin Results 1980–2003" by the Australian Rugby League, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  4. "History" by the New South Wales Rugby League, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  5. "State of Origin Records" by the Queensland Rugby League, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  6. "State of Origin Statistics" by World of Rugby League, Retrieved 15 November 2005
  7., Retrieved 15 November 2006

Sources disputing the 1987 Los Angeles match

  1. ^ Colman, Mike (26 November 2005) "Assigning History by asterisks" The Courier-Mail (page 61)
  2. ^ Dick, Barry (16 July 2003) "Origin Battle Rages On and Off the Field" The Courier-Mail (page 1)

Player lists

  2. Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage

Further reading

External links

  • state of origin section.
  • The National Rugby League's state of origin section
  • Winfield State of Origin Shield at
  • Queensland vs. NSW web game
  • State of Origin news section
fr:State of Origin

id:Rugby League State of Origin pt:Rugby League State of Origin zh:起源洲賽

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