Almanac Footy: The perfect opportunity for Australian rules football State of Origin

It may have happened only because of Covid but this lay-off week before the AFL Grand Final is something I’ve been arguing for a few years now.  Why? Because it presents the perfect opportunity to have a return to State of Origin Football, which for those of us old enough and lucky enough to have experienced it, is simply the best of the best.



The break before the finals start never made sense and disempowers higher ranked teams but here’s how this pre-grand final break can be a boon to football.



At the end of the qualifying round, squads are selected from the pool of available players (ie: the 10 clubs knocked out already). I suggest four squads for Vic, S.A., W.A. and N.S.W.  but as in the old `Carnival’ days, I would not discount Tas and Qld teams, even if those teams had to be bolstered by players from local competitions.



But for now, assume we have four squads. After each final round, two more AFL teams are eliminated, and from these teams more players are added to the initial squads. This means that when we arrive at the point at which we are currently, the two grand finalists in waiting, we have 16 teams contributing to the state squads.  This would give us an opportunity of playing ROUND 1 this weekend: For example Saturday Victoria v W.A. , Sunday S.A. v NSW.



The winners then go onto play in the final next week, either on the FRIDAY NIGHT BEFORE THE GRAND FINAL or on the SATURDAY DAY.  Optional that losers could play off too.



Without Covid, such games could be played at venues like the SCG, Adelaide Oval or Optus Stadium. I know the frustration of fans in Perth who cannot get to the MCG for a grand final and I guarantee you’d get a sell out at Optus, and I’m sure in Adelaide for such games.  Instead of a boring long kicking contest across the Yarra, the lead into a twilight or night Grand Final at the MCG could be the interstate game. Or play it on the night before if that’s what broadcasters prefer.



The end of the season means that players have more freedom and clubs cannot ban them as would happen pre-season or mid-season. It is perfect timing to see wonderful football. Finals football is a pressure cooker but in these state games players can be more free-wheeling and attacking. Some of the clashes I saw in the 70s and 80s are the best quality of footy I have ever seen.



For those who think that NSW would not have a competitive team, have a look at the side selected this year by the NSW Australian Football History Society.



Reading from backs:


Cunningham, Howard, Perryman

Duryea, Rampe, Cumming

I.Smith, Mills, Gulden

Breust, Himmelberg, Wicks

Schultz, Hawkins, Marshall

Flynn, Hopper, Heeney

Lloyd, Spargo, Buckley, Koschitzke.



Only a few of these players would be unavailable right now to play in a game this weekend.



I believe this system would also give us a chance to better evaluate the ALL AUSTRALIAN SIDE which could then be announced after the Grand Final based on the performances of players in the state games and the Grand Final. Of course, Tasmanian and Queensland and injured players if not given the opportunity in a state game or the Grand Final could still be evaluated on their other performances. The original All Australian sides were determined by players performances in state games. This I believe is a far superior test to determine who deserves to be All Australian than qualifying round club games. The finest players play best against the best opposition.



That’s my suggestion anyway. The broadcasters would love it, non-Victorian fans who find it prohibitive to get to Melbourne for the Grand Final week would love it because they could still have footy in their state right to the end.



Let’s bring back the best footy of all State of Origin!



Who would you have in your state’s side right now?





The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in 2021. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order HERE.



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About dave warner

East Freo supporter, musician, writer who has used football themes in songs (Half Time at the Football, Suburban Boy, Free Kicks) and books (City of Light, Footy's Hall of Shame)


  1. I’m in lockstep with you on this one Dave, aside from the lack of Maroons love. I think they’d be in with a huge shout in a one-off series for state pride…the dream matchup would be against NSW. Markets itself really!

  2. Great idea Dave. One issue is when an Adelaide or Perth team plays in the GF. This could reduce their pool of available players (even though they have large quantities of players from other States). Or, if the day comes for a Freo v Eagles GF! Good grief.

    Would the teams participating in the GF grumble also? taking away their limelight?

    There will always be something to grumble about. I like the idea.

  3. I like your creativity and your passion for trying to find a way to make this happen. But I think it would be hard to pull off due to 1) the best players from the partipating finals not being available and 2) many players wanting a complete break after their sides have been eliminated.

    What about setting aside two weekends in late Feb/early March to do this properly. We split the six states into two groups off three. On the first weekend we have the teams in each group play eachother for two 20 minute quarters, sorta like the old lightening premiership i.e.

    Friday Night Group A: VIC & NSW/ACT & QLD/NT
    Saturday Night Group B: WA & SA & TAS

    Following Saturday Night:

    Grand FInal: Winner of Group A vs. Group B.

    You could also have the runners up from each group play eacother the night before the State GF to help determine rankings for the following year.

    It would give the footy-starved something to savour in early March – a couple of weeks before the AFL season begins.

  4. I like the structure of yours too Damian, but the timing I think would get far too much backlash from coaches worried that their stars would go down with an ACL or even just a bad hamstring so close to the start of the next season. In September you have players with match fitness and if things had gone slightly differently during the H&A season, they would be playing then anyway. I think the lure of rep footy and a small bonus on top of their match payments for making the team would work pre-GF.

  5. Fair call Jarrod, but I would have thought the players would be too banged up at the end of the season to willingly partipate. I’d like to seem fresh as daisys in March. It’s dilemma either way I guess to find the right time period to appease coaches/staff of AFL teams. Maybe the pre-season carnival could work if it was only done every 2 or 4 years and the AFL made it compulsory for all selected players to play (subject to all clear from State doctors – not team doctors!).

  6. It’s something that rugby league doesn’t really have an issue with, but a lot of that is down to it being the pinacle of the sport and the tremendous amount of both goodwill and hype around it.

    I like the idea behind every 2-4 years, makes it even more special. Easier to justify too.

  7. I am a proponent of the pre-GF bye.

    But I am absolutely against this idea.

    The “gap week” offers the chance for the VFL, SANFL, WAFL, and all the local and country leagues, to hold their grand finals in “free air”.

  8. Do you see an alternative timeslot for Origin, Smokie? Or are you more of the view that rep footy has gone the way of the dodo?

  9. Daryl Schramm says

    I would love State of Origin return. This idea has some merit and drawbacks as have already been mentioned. Firstly SOO needs to be inclusive for all players. I also want to see it as a semi meaningful contest, in that there is something on the end of it for the players. All it takes is one match per year. Early to mid season. Vic v Non Vic at MCG, then SA v non SA then WA v non WA, then Allies (Rest, Developing?) v rest alternating between Hobart, SCG, Gabba, ACT, NT . . .
    The best of each state gets a chance to match it with the best of the rest meaning all players could be picked each year. One match, best players. Let er rip. Apply it to AFLW as well.

  10. Dave, a ripper of an idea.

    Considering the State vs State tensions we have seen in the last 18 months dealing with covid, state rivalry is begging to be given a platform. State of Origin footy is the Goldilocks just right platform.

    It does need to (must) include Tassie and Qld.

    I reckon this time of the year is just right too.

    AFL, make it happen!


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