Almanac Rugby League – State of Origin: Dumb v Dumb & Dumber

I have seen the future of top line sport.  Ever wondered what a Paul Roos v Ross Lyon Grand Final would look like?  Well anyone who watched tonight’s Game 2 of the Rugby League NSW v Queensland State of Origin got it in spades.

Look I get all the context of the Cockroaches as long time losers.  I get the 80,000 Marj Simpson’s in the stands baying for revenge.  I get the “State v State; Mate v Mate” hoopla.  I lived in Canberra for 15 years in the 80s and 90s when the Daley/Stuart/Meninga/Clyde Raiders were in their pomp.  King Wally, Senator “Brick with Eyes” and little blonde Alfie “Deborah Kerr” (the King and I) dominated for the Canetoads in the cauldron.  It was dramatic, creative, suspenseful – everything that a sporting neutral yearns for.

I half watched most of this year’s Game 1, but I gave tonight my full attention (I owe AE 6 uninterrupted Bold & Beautifuls in return).  I was hoping for Slater, Inglis, Hayne magic that echoed that brilliant creativity and individualism of yesteryear.

What I got was the epitome of modern strategized, analysed, risk managed, sterilised, anal-ised, play the percentages, terrified, professionalised sport.  Yes it was the ‘close one’, in the same way that it was the only thing that kept the 2013 AFL Grand Final vaguely interesting.   If you keep the scores low enough the struggling side is always theoretically in it.

Both sides were too terrified to take a chance with creativity or ball out wide.  As a consequence they played the game in the confines of an overcrowded midfield with more resulting turnovers than a hyperactive hamburger cook strung out on crystal meth.

The last 5 minutes was Jonathon Thurston auditioning for a role in Grumpy Old Men as Christopher Pyne’s assistant minister.

AFL can both look at its future if it does not modify its rules to reward skill over brute athleticism, and breath a sigh of relief that League’s feature contest was as appealing as an Abbott v Shorten debate for the impartial observer.

Rabbits, Gus and Darren trying to talk up the turd made BT, Bruce and Basil sound like Arlott, McGilvray and Tim Lane.

Roll on the Football World Cup.   FIFA may be corrupt, but at least they manage to put on a show full of artistry and creativity.


  1. Bob Speechley says

    We have a long way to go to equate the inanity of King Wally and his TV ads and 17 pages of a Maroon newspaper with “BELIEVE” as the Front page Banner. The paper is sprinkled with specials on XXXX and Bundaberg!

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    I saw the last two minutes, replete with loud mouthed over the top ocker commentary, when the cleaner came to work and put the telly on. Glad I missed it.
    Roll on 2 a.m.

  3. Sad to say, I saw the last hour and I too want it back.When instructions from the commentary team went unheralded,I hoped for run and carry instead. Why didn’t they just go for it? When your game is measured in metres, dash would have saved the game from tedium.Talking might polish a barker’s egg and tell you lots about it, but it’s still an egg.

  4. Dr Goatboat says

    Did someone actually win?

  5. Miles Wilks says

    Peter, you talk about low scoring matches and defensive domination and then refer to looking forward to the soccer world cup. Isn’t soccer the ultimate game in which defensive strategies win? Hell, many games end in 0-0…and often they need a penalty shoot-out to determine a winner. Why not just toss a coin to determine a winner? It would be just as fair as a “penalty-shoot out”. The so called “greatest moment in Australian soccer” – Aloisi’s goal came from a penalty shoot out. Every one seems to conveniently forget that fact.

  6. Gregor Lewis says

    ‘We got a bulldog mixed with a shitsu … Called it a Bullshit, but it didn’t stick’.

    What have you done to me Peter? Now everytime I watch one of my favourite comedies of ALL TIME, when Jim Carrey asks that hit-man, ‘Y’wanna hear the most annoying sound in the world? …’

    Instead of the timeless screech he unleashes, Gus Gould’s overheated attempt to parrot Kerry o’Keefe will flash through my head instead.

    The commentary was painful. The match was even moreso. As you say, it was all predicated on fear, with Queensland inches away from succeeding in their obvious aim to ‘nick it’ while playing safely within themselves …
    … And NSW played scared within the coccoon of expected official benevolence.

    I thought Game 1 was a beauty. This one was too ugly to be called a beast.

    Yeeeeek …


  7. Surprise, surprise, I didn’t see it that way.

    I didn’t hear much of the commentary as I was at the Waterside Hotel in Melbourne along with some other Queenslanders and New South Wales fans.

    My (uninfluenced) reading of the game was that Queensland took a lot of risks in attack, and again New South Wales held them out. Yes, there was a lot of running from dummy half, but that is becasue Smith is a genius at picking the moment to go himself, and a genius at taking two steps and finding his hit-up man at the advantage line. BUt THurston’s second man set-ups came all night. (It wasn’t his best game, nor was it DCE’s best game. DCE may have found the try line himself had he not dribble-kicked)

    The Blues try was the result of the unexpected, and a momentary concentration fade in the slide defence. For 70 minutes Hodkinson had played link man, so to go on his own and attack the line (all the great half-backs have attacked the line, picking the right moment) was a good tactic. It came on the back of a series of six tackles and Qld were flagging.

    Rugby league is about attack and scoring points, but it is also about defence. You have two defensive strategies. One: aggressive defence where you belt the opponent into submission and then your attack dominates the game. Two: absorbing defence. Where you keep absorbing the hits and fight back with the football. So can the best defensive side hold out the best attacking side?

    I reckon we saw an example of that last night.

    The weakness in the game was in the never-ending simmering tension between the two sides. I’d say there was massive lip out there. It was not played in very good spirit. But Gallen and Watmough are no Henry Kissingers. And the Queenslanders don’t hold back either.

    There were moments when the Queenslanders didn’t handle the pressure. Surprisingly.

    I thought the Blue spear tackle should have been penalised with a yellow card.

    A few refs decisions went New South’s way – especially the kick off which clearly brushed the jumper.

    I was totally engaged by the match, as my two dinner partners will tell you. Being southerners they left at half time.

    I had an existential Queensland second half.

    It has been a sensational run.

    Will Origin III be played in the spirit of the last day at school? OR will it be tight as and angry?

  8. I reckon it was one of those contests that was meaningful if you had skin in the game. Dead boring if you were a neutral hoping for skills and excitement.

  9. Malcolm Ashwood says

    I rang my parents and thanked them that I grew up in a aussie rules state

  10. Bert Bollard says

    Twenty years of living in New South Wales,amongst the heathens and heretic, has taught me one thing about State of Origin: it is a great night to go out to dinner!
    Most places are half empty, and you can always get a table.
    Be sure to head home early though ’cause there are some drunks on the road (and staggering along the roadsides) once the game has finished.
    Fair dinkum,
    As unattractive as AFL footy has become, over the last few years, in could never be as ugly as Rugby League.

  11. Gordon Ricketts says

    Peter, I think you have missed some important factors which contributed to the low scoring, lack of adventure and the brutality. Perhaps akin to someone brought up in a rugby league heartland who does not appreciate a fierce Collingwood Carlton clash on a wet MCG, where the ball spends most of its time being fumbled in the mud. The pure skills of speed, evasion, passing are blunted by the conditions or in this case the occasion. This Origin battle was always going to be dour, hail or shine. The context, NSW 9 years of misery, several controversial incidents in recent years where refereeing interpretations favouring Qld were much maligned, NSW this year winning Game 1 in Brisbane defying the odds, game 2 in Sydney, odds with NSW. As Gregor Lewis suggests ‘official benevolence was expected’. No better opportunity, desperation, winning is all that matters, bugger the purists.

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