The greatest problem with the State of Origin series isn’t the game being played on a Wednesday night.
Each year, for three rounds, we see teams that would normally be favourites to win a match, be reduced to a B Grade side as the reserves and NYC players fill in the roles of stars, up against a team that may have only one or less players out at the same time. Injuries happen, but Origin is predictable and the mid-season mayhem cruels some teams whilst gifting undeserved victories to others.
To compensate for this, you need the draw to be flexible. Rather than have teams already face each other twice before Round 11, they face just once, not difficult with 16 teams involved. You plan the remainder of the season (to ensure that the home and away requirements are met) but you do not assign them.
You name the two Origin squads the week before Round 11. You then look at the impacts on each side and match the sides up with those teams with similar numbers of players who will be missing. You then allocate the three rounds impacted by the losses of these players. You then allocate the remaining games of the season after addressing those demands.
You would also assign those teams most effected the later games in the weekend, so that the players involved get more rest to reduce the impact of these games that are important for the game but a nightmare for the teams who are involved.
This weekend’s matches had a New Zealand Warriors team defeating a depleted Broncos with the same happening with the Raiders beating the Roosters. As a Cowboys fan, these results do not yet directly affect me. But for the game, we had two games that were going to be close being less so. Yes, the Roosters could have won, but they were running five replacement players who may have performed adequately, but not up to the standard of those who they replaced. Against a side with a single player on Origin duty, the Raiders should have won this easily.
It would have been fairer for Canberra to face the Warriors and the similarly depleted teams to face off. With these two games, both to happen later in the season anyway, why should any team be significantly advantaged due to an exhibition match.
Given that sides have lost players due to the injuries sustained in Origin, this modification of the draw would do a little bit to reduce the impacts to the teams whose players are involved.
If you were not to look at doing this as the season is in progress, you could assess this period, based on the previous year’s origin teams and adjust the draw accordingly. Gifting teams wins reduces the value of the game and this period of the game needs to be addressed to provide the best possible product at all stages of the season.