This weekend sees the NRL back to a full round of competition games following the bye rounds created by the first Origin clash, once again creating talk on whether Origin should be played on stand alone weekends.
The current problem with the Wednesday night format is the large amount of quality players lost to the games that are scheduled for the weekend. This was highlighted by some dour affairs, in round 11, namely the Tigers 8-0 loss at home to the understrength North Queensland Cowboys. If we were to play Origin on a weekend, you could give each team the bye, and lessen the loss of quality in the club games. The round was only saved by a classic match on the Sunday, in which Canterbury and Canberra played a no-defence thriller.
Arguments from opposition to changing the schedule say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” however the quality dished out during rounds before Origin highlights that the system is broken indeed. The weekend following Origin is also sucked dry of some of the best players, robbing fans who turn out to the games of seeing the pinnacle of their teams turning out, due to soreness from the midweek fixture.
The effect the state v state game has on club football is a further detriment to the mid week scheduling. Clubs can build a firm foundation during the start of the season, but know they will suffer during Origin rounds. In a competition as closely fought as the NRL, this is a blight on the game. Teams and fans should not be saving their acorns for the harsh Origin period, rather they should be offered the best conditions each round, to keep the spectacle at its finest.
Many followers of league consider their best players being picked for Origin as a negative, knowing how much it will cost their side, rather than basking in the success. It must make the situation awkward for coaches as well.
A lot of the decision to keep it on Wednesday night would come down to the high TV rating obtained during this timeslot, which once again is a kick in the face to fans, knowing they do not have the say in the direction of the game, they TV producers do. The change to a stand alone Origin weekend would also fix the issue of fans getting to the game. It was a concern the crowd wouldn’t get to the 80,000 mark during game one at ANZ Stadium in Sydney. If families were able to go on a night that didn’t involve school the next day, it would allow more to travel to and from the game.
It also wouldn’t detract from club football.
Origin is the pinnacle of our game and deserves to be played in a manner highlighting this fact. But we shouldn’t allow the pinnacle to lessen the strength of the rest of rugby league.