Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin: Alternative universe

by Geoff Woolcock


Another Origin series begins, and with it the Origin alternative universe or as the victorious Blues coach Loz Daley put it, “It’s Origin. It’s a different game”. I was going to write a piece condemning the Gallen one-two punches to Nate Myles and send it straight to one of the various teeth-gnashing on-line opinion forums/blogs/commentaries, presumably to a sympathetic audience. But having been in a few uncomfortable all-male, unquestionably racist footy chats in the wake of the Goodes-McGuire uproar the week before, I figure it’s best to get in the thick of it with fellow Almanackers and call us out on it… ie do you reckon the aftermath has unfairly picked on Gallen, has Loz got it right calling it “a great Origin moment”? Or are you with Steve Renouf’s tweet: “So now kids can go out this weekend and king hit another kid on the footy field with no repercussion”.  Guess it’s pretty obvious – I’m with the Pearl.

Do we really think this is ok? Because it’s Origin? I love the toughness of Origin, the hard hits, the brute force, it’s part of the theatre but king hits with the fists to the head are not. A lot of fear drives perceptions that violent crime is increasing everywhere but the only area where it has markedly increased in Australia is assault. There’s a lot of people who reckon it’s a stretch to equate some biffo on the Origin park to aggravated assault off it. I’m not one of them, having mixed with enough footballers when I was younger to know that the boys who were prone to throwing haymakers on the paddock were the ones most likely to repeat the dose off it.

I reckon there’s also still a large enough crowd around that might frown on the punches but don’t buy the role model argument that Renouf implies in his tweet. Again, all I would say is get real, especially as someone who’s coached teenage footballers for the last few years. Why wouldn’t they think it’s ok when legends of the game can call it a great Origin moment? Why wouldn’t they think it was legitimated when they read this morning’s Courier-Mail headline “We’re ready for you Paul”? Seriously, the infantilism that comes out at Origin time exposes an unseemly underbelly of Australian society that makes you wonder just how much progress any anti-violence campaigns have achieved. There’s much to be proud of in sentiments behind the One Punch Can Kill campaign (click here) but it’s dripping in hypocrisy if it’s divorced from our rugby league greats wanting to describe Gallen’s violence as something different, in the “heat of battle”. Much as I’ve been taken back over the years with how primal instincts Origin footy seems to bring out in women, it’s still men telling men that this grubby violence is not on that will trigger change. It’s fantastic to see other league loving commentators calling it for what it was (Quentin Hull ABC 612, love ya) but it needs men telling men as part of natural banter at the water cooler, at the pub, in the gym, over a coffee and not at some stylised awareness raising event where the rehabilitative scripts have been written for us. Man up, as the resilience gurus would put it.


  1. The Pearl: a very good judge.

  2. Geoffrey

    Agree completely.

    Although a very occassional and casual follower of League, I still set aside time for the three State of Origins as I think they are brilliant, marketed well, awesome games and a high point of the sporting calendar.

    But the acceptance of violence is really disappointing. Like you, I see all the time how junior footballers mimic what they see in the AFL, especially with sledging and off the ball push and shove, or in your face after kicking a goal, and if they see acts like Gallen’s not only be unpunished but celebrated, then we are at a worrying stage.

    Of greater concern was the punch in the tackle that preceeded the fight and seems to have gone unnoticed. That he got one week for all punches is an indictment on the game.

    The AFL did one right thing when they double penalties for GF suspensions, to avoid that first 10 minute brutality and cheap shots that charaterised GFs about 20 years ago.

    State of Origin is brilliant, but its handling of this issue, and associated calls for bring back the biff, are sad.


  3. gil crespy says

    I am not a ‘bring back the biff’ advocate, but the incident in Origin1 didn’t worry me in the least.
    I was astounded by the hand-wringing piety that Gallen’s punch provoked.
    Incredible, given that slaughter is considered such good clean fun in every blockbuster that packs our cinemas.
    The more physical football codes are an outlet for people – better on the field than in the streets. And if you want to see what the mob thought of it, just watch the slo-mo replay as Gallen clocks Myles. The great unwashed went up, roaring.
    The high-minded commentariat can lead a horse to water, etc …

Leave a Comment