If there is one event every year that you can guarantee you will see on a Brisbane billboard, it will be advertising for the annual State of Origin series between Queensland and New South Wales.
State of Origin is a three game series of Rugby League games, and is marketed as one of the year’s must see sporting events. It is usually played on a rotating schedule of two games in one city and one in the other. However, more recently the National Rugby League—the national body of the game in Australia—has been taking one of the games interstate to promote the game outside the traditional home states of Queensland and New South Wales. In 2018 there will be one game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and next year there will be one game at Perth’s brand new stadium.
The series was first played in 1980, and has been held every year since. For a long time the overall number of games and series won had been incredibly even—in fact it was one of the most closely fought sporting contests in Australia. But in recent memory, Queensland has been the dominant force, winning six series in a row, and only losing one in a ten year run.
The selection of the two sides is always a hotly contested competition, with players from all sixteen National Rugby League clubs competing for the coveted seventeen spots in each of the sides. Speculation on who will be chosen always starts months before a ball is kicked, and many would argue that it has become so big that it is a detriment to the home and away club competition, as it takes too much focus from it.
Queensland has lost a number of its best players to retirement this year, and New South Wales has a new coach, which will give them renewed hope they can break the drought. But one thing is for sure: when it’s time for the game you will see plenty of Brisbane billboards about it.