Almanac Book Review – ‘State of Origin: 40 Years’

 

State of Origin: 40 Years by Liam Hauser (Sydney: Gelding Street Press, 2020) RRP $39.99
Reviewed by Lindsey Cuthbertson

 

There are some sporting events which turn the most considerate people into irrational balls of emotion, the calmest of souls into raging bulls, and the quietest voices into the loudest in the room. It is arguable no Australian sport achieves this better than rugby league’s State of Origin.

 

In any other season Origin would be done and dusted by now and we would be back to cheering on our respective club teams in the road home to the finals. Instead, we have experienced a winter without any new additions to the great interstate rivalry between New South Wales and Queensland, and no new folktales to add to the Origin mythos. We must calmly look to past glories and defeats as we wait out the next four months for an Origin series in a foreign season. Liam Hauser’s State of Origin: 40 Years has arrived at the right time to help fill the void until then.

 

With State of Origin: 40 Years, Hauser attempts the seemingly impossible: objectively reviewing and reporting every Origin match ever played. It is challenging at the best of times to put aside your state allegiances and critically analyse a match in detail but Hauser, a dyed-in-the-wool Queenslander, is up to the task. This is the third edition of Hauser’s Origin series (starting with State of Origin: 30 Years 10 years ago, and then a second update five years later) and he re-watched all 117 Origin matches during the update of this book. That’s almost an entire week of gameplay to work through – and this investment of time leads his book to be a comprehensive account of the last four decades of blood, sweat and tears given to the sky blue of New South Wales and the Maroon of Queensland.

 

Hauser is a journalist by trade and he takes a reporter’s methodical and thorough approach to covering the facts of each match. He leaves the mythologising of performances or personalities to others, instead focusing on providing blow-by-blow accounts of how the games unfolded, outlining the key turning points which influenced the outcomes. A key example of this is how he conveys Queensland’s ‘miracle try’ at the end of Game One, 1994:

 

“Drawing two Blues as he drifted, Smith passed to Langer, who moved past the quarter-line and flung the ball right as Brad Mackay brought him down from behind. Meninga accepted Langer’s pass and drifted right to feed Coyne, who stepped inside and surged forward with Fittler wrapped around his waist. With the ball under his right arm, Coyne reached for the line and scored as Stuart and Elias arrived. With 40 second left, Queensland has snatched an incredible victory.”

 

Here is one of the most iconic moments in Origin footy, devoid of personal opinion, bias and Ray Warren’s memorable commentary, laid out in accurate, objective fact. 

 

That objectivity is the shining light of State of Origin: 40 Years, because it helps us as Origin fans to view a match without context or emotion. For example, most Blues fans would subjectively reminisce upon Game Two 2014 as one of their most emotional moments supporting the Blues. Objectively, Hauser allows us to see the game itself for what it truly was: an absolute bludger (or, in his words, “the standard of play left something to be desired”).

 

There’s more to this book than just the match reports: it also captures a wide range of statistics, such as full team lists, captains, scores, crowds, man-of-the-match awards and even the referees for each Origin game. 

 

The accumulation of all this knowledge in one volume turns State of Origin: 40 Years into the unofficial Origin encyclopaedia, one which acts as a jumping-off point for every Origin fan to delve into their favourite moments. We all have four months to do so until more memories are made and we can succumb once more to the annual sporting passion only 240 minutes of Origin footy can bring.

 

Overall, Hauser succeeds in his challenging task of portraying the power of Origin without getting lost in the passion. The outcome is a book rich on detail and history which will appeal to both the Origin tragic and the more casual fan starting out on their rugby league journey.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

Comments

  1. Thanks for this review, Lindsey. I think you’ve captured the essence of what Liam is on about in his coverage. He certainly ‘captures’ objectivity in his coverage. That’s in stark contrast to people like you and me who more likely fit into that opening description you offer: ‘There are some sporting events which turn the most considerate people into irrational balls of emotion, the calmest of souls into raging bulls, and the quietest voices into the loudest in the room.’ Spot on!

  2. Liam Hauser says

    Well said Lindsey and Ian.
    I have read books with a very parochial focus. I generally don’t gravitate to them, even if they are biased in favour of the team(s) that I support.
    Nevertheless, I completely understand the following description: ‘There are some sporting events which turn the most considerate people into irrational balls of emotion, the calmest of souls into raging bulls, and the quietest voices into the loudest in the room.’
    I know I’ve gone through this sort of thing when watching a live telecast. But much further down the track, when the dust has settled, I find that I can see things differently. Maybe I’ve also been able to compartmentalise. Part of me is a parochial Queenslander, but another part of me seeks balance, impartiality and objectivity. It’s not always easy to achieve those 3 things!

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