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State of Origin

For the annual series of rugby league games in Australia, see the State of Origin series article.

State of origin is the state or territory from which something originates. The name is also used in Australia for both small and larger sporting events which generally involve domestic representative teams. The term, when used in isolation, usually refers to rugby league football, and occasionally Australian rules football matches, in which players are selected for the Australian states or territories where they either first played (hence the name 'state of origin') or played the majority of their senior football. The concept mirrors international representative rules in other sports. The annual State of Origin series is now one of Australia's most popular sporting events.

It was devised to address the drift of most talented Australian rules players to the Victorian Football League (VFL) and the effect that this had on interstate matches. A similar situation existed in regard to the New South Wales Rugby League which attracted the best players from the Queensland Rugby League because of its far stronger and financially attractive competition. The latter was due to the increased funds of the New South Wales clubs, due to poker machines, which Queensland laws prohibited.


The first recorded call for 'state of origin' selection rules for interstate football was made in 1900. A journalist known as "The Cynic" writing for a rugby football periodical called The Referee, suggested that Stephen Spragg, who had moved to Queensland, should be able to play for his state of birth, New South Wales.[1] The change did not eventuate, with residential selection rules prevailing both before and after the split into rugby league and rugby union until the concept was later resurrected for league. However in rugby union the concept has never been used, as the Queensland and New South Wales teams ceased to be representative, instead becoming more like clubs.

Rugby league (Australia)

Traditionally, the basis for selecting players in representative international sides (i.e. their country of origin) did not extend to interstate sides in Australian rugby league. Instead players represented the state in which they played their club football as per the 'residency rule', in which they played for the club which represented the district they lived in. This gave a significant advantage to New South Wales as the movement of players south was far greater than the movement north.

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.[2] This would not eventuate until decades later however, when New South Wales and Queensland played their first "state of origin" match on 8 July 1980. The Australian rules experience was echoed, with Queenslanders showing enormous interest in the game at Lang Park, Brisbane.

The popularity of State of Origin matches since then has not waned and they remain one of Australia's (and indeed the region's) biggest sporting events. A record crowd of 88,336 attended a game at Stadium Australia in 1999. The record for the annual three game series was set in 2004, when a total of 203,309 people attended. The 2005 series saw an attendance record for a series with two matches in Queensland, with 187,374.[3] The record television audience was set during game 1 of the 2009 series and stands at 3.48 million.[4] Queensland has won 18 series from 1982–2013, and NSW has won 13, with 2 drawn. Queensland have won the most series in a row. (8 Series 2006-2013).

Australian international teams are often selected based on performance in the State of Origin series.

New South Wales play in sky blue jerseys and are known as "the Blues", a term dating from 1974 when a journalist used the name in an article. The Blues won that series, leading coach Jack Gibson to comment "I thought they went pretty well for a bunch of cockroaches". The Queensland team plays in a maroon jersey, and are called "the Maroons". Both teams also have unbecoming nicknames - New South Wales: "the Cockroaches"; Queensland: "the Cane Toads".

Australian Football

The first 'state of origin' game was an Australian Football game between Western Australia (WA) and Victoria, at Subiaco Oval in Perth on 8 October 1977.[5] Leon Larkin, marketing manager of the Subiaco Football Club in the West Australian Football League (WAFL), negotiated with the VFL for two years, before arrangements for the game were finalised.[5] In the words of football historian John Devaney:

A Western Australian team comprised entirely of home-based players had, on 25 June, taken on a Victorian team containing many of the same players who would return to Perth ... for the state of origin clash. The respective scores of the two matches offered a persuasive argument, if such were needed, of the extent to which the VFL had denuded the WAFL of its elite talent:
  • On 25 June 1977 Victoria 23.16 (154) defeated Western Australia 13.13 (91) — a margin of 63 points
  • On 8 October 1977 Western Australia 23.13 (151) defeated Victoria 8.9 (57) — a margin of 94 points, representing an overall turn around of 157 points
Western Australia's previous biggest winning margin against a Victorian state team had been a mere 38 points in 1948. Almost overnight, an inferiority complex was dismantled: Victoria, it seemed, was not intrinsically superior, only wealthier.
—Devaney, [5]

Games involving each of the other states soon followed. In 1989, a crowd of 91,960 people — a record for interstate games in Australian rules — attended a game between Victoria and South Australia at the MCG.[6]

However, attendance and interest declined during the 1990s, due to a variety of factors, such as the VFL's ongoing conversion into a national club competition,[7] the Australian Football League (AFL). The last official state of origin game involving AFL players was held in 1999.[8] However, an annual veterans' game is still held.

A once-off AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match between a Victorian state of origin side and the Dream Team representing the other states, was staged on 10 May 2008 to celebrate 150 years of Australian Football.

Rugby league (England)

[citation needed]

The success of the State of Origin series in Australian rugby league resulted in the revival of England's inter-county games in 2001, under the name Origin Series. However, the revival was scrapped in 2003 amid increasing fixture congestion and general apathy from league supporters.

The International Origin Match, held for the first time in 2011, is more of an all-star game, as it pits the England national team against Australian and New Zealand stars in the largely English-based Super League.

Rugby league (New Zealand)

The New Zealand Rugby League has set up a similar competition called Kiwi Roots which will commence from 2010 onwards.[9] The players will be eligible for two teams, one for players born north of the Bombay Hills and one for those born south of them. This capitalises upon the healthy rivalry that New Zealand's biggest city, Auckland, has with the rest of the country.

Other State of origin Events

Due to the success of the larger State of Origin events, many sporting clubs and or association have started their own annual State of Origin series across Australia and New Zealand. Rivalry is high in sports and its proven to be a great concept. Predominantly the sporting organization or associations adopt their Team Colours as uniforms, its team building and holds significant passion for there event.

In Australia, sprint car racing often uses a State of Origin format in registering car numbers. Each driver's car number is preceded in official results sheets by their home state. Foreign drivers are also designated in the State of Origin format. In some instances, a team's state of origin will be used instead of a driver.

  • N = New South Wales
  • S = South Australia
  • Q = Queensland
  • V = Victoria
  • ACT = Australian Capital Territory
  • W = Western Australia
  • T = Tasmania
  • NT = Northern Territory
  • NZ = New Zealand
  • US = United States


  1. ^ - The Origin of State of Origin
  2. ^ Gallaway, Jack (2003). Origin: Rugby League's greatest contest 1980-2002. Australia: University of Queensland Press. pp. xi. ISBN 0-7022-3383-8. 
  3. ^ Rugby League Tables - State of Origin
  4. ^ Masters, Roy (6 June 2009). "NRL splits assets in search of TV gold". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c John Devaney. "West Coast — Part One: 1981 to 1985". Retrieved 11 October 2006. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ Full Points Footy
  8. ^ Sam Edmund (16 September 2006). "Football survey: Return to the Origin species". Herald Sun. Retrieved 22 May 2007. 
  9. ^ Brown, Michael (15 July 2007). "League: Kiwi Roots clash part of competitions shake-up". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 13 November 2011. 

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