Queensland have wrapped up the series again. With a third game to played in NSW, every marketing person that has anything to do with Origin will tell you that there is no such thing as a 'dead rubber'. In saying that the reality is that with the list QLD has, if they decide to play to their potential and they sweep the series, it will only bring more heartache to NSW and their supporters.
So the question has to be asked, with the toll Origin takes on players and the competition; should a team wrap the series up in two games would it be viable to call it quits and everyone can go back to trying to win a premiership?
In favour of playing the dead rubber:
It's no doubt players cherish every single Origin (and representative) jumper they receive. Regardless of whether they win a series or not, it's a chance for players to play on the biggest stage with and against the best players in the world. Second to this the teams on both sides of the coin either want a chance at redemption or a chance to assert their dominance. Finally if a player retires in a year where they have a home game, they get the chance to play out their Origin career at their home ground in front of their family and friends. Granted the last reason isn't so compelling. However over the next couple of years we are seeing some of the greats of a generation retire, Parker, Gallen and Thurston and Cronk and Smith wont be too far behind. Gallen has his detractors and critics but he has consistently been one of the best locks of our generation, a solid leader for NSW and deserves a send off. And for all you QLD'ers who say Gallen can 'go jump that's just too bad', just put JT in that scenario. If a game 3 doesn't happen next year and QLD lose the game and the series in NSW and that was JTs last game, would you still be saying "too bad"?.
In favour of wrapping up the series:
First and foremost Origin is cannibalising it's own product the NRL. People generally start talking Origin about round 5. Teams are now having an official launch, we have full time coaches. The sides are picked at or around round 10 or 11. Each game is played 3 weeks apart and we wont wrap on Origin until round 20. Then there is only 6 weeks run into finals. So thats half the season gone either playing or talking about Origin and people almost forget there is a comp going on. Crowds suffer during this period because people are either too preoccupied with Origin or they don't want to a second string game with Rep players missing. The other problem is 'dead rubber' crowds are generally way down, with only 40-50 thousand predicted for game 3 this year is it worth stretching this out for nearly another month. Will you get a high quality Origin game? NSW might come at QLD hard and QLD will certainly be in the contest. But with the focus shifting back to finals football I wonder if (even sub-consciously) players will stop putting their body on the line when there isn't a series to win? If a side gets 12-14 points up early the game might just fizzle out to nothing.
The NRL have started to take steps towards a new broadcast rights deal which will shorten the origin period. Basically there will only be a 10 day break in between game 1 and 2, and games 2 and 3. With game 2 to be played on a Sunday as part of rep weekend.
Personally I think the NRL could look at two options.
1. Play Origin over three consecutive weeks. Suspend the competition for three weeks and in those three weeks, run a 9's tournament that tours with Origin and plays over an Origin weekend. And it's no argument to say it will take too much of a toll on Origin players. Most of them back up these days anyway.
2. Play Origin as a one off. Keep the Representative (apart form the mid year test) round. In one weekend you play Tonga v Samoa, Fiji v PNG, City v Country, all leading up to Origin on a Sunday night. Then for good measure we take a leaf out of Major League Baseballs book and you could also have an all star game where players are chosen by the voting public. Chuck in some sprints, kicking competitions, trick drop goal comps, Etc and make it an all star weekend where we can celebrate the game with as many players as possible. All part of Origin and all part of one carnival celebrating the game we love.
But thats just my two cents. What do you think?