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EDITORIAL | Why the Origin Bye Round should be Extended

It’s Origin time again. While we all look forward to another fascinating series (with Queensland finally losing their decade-long invincibility, this could be the closest series in years), it has a knock on effect in the NRL.

Origin-heavy teams traditionally struggle this time of year. Brisbane – who’ve been blessed with a large Origin representation since 1988 – have had to juggle this tricky period and the inevitable post-Origin blues (pun not intended). Many times a promising Broncos season has unravelled during and after Origin, leaving them struggling to stay in the eight and robbed of momentum come September. For players, it must be hard to re-focus on club football during the six-week Origin period, both physically (having to back up after a tough Origin game) and emotionally (the inevitable letdown after the highs of Origin).

On Friday night, a depleted South Sydney lost to Parramatta. While great for the Eels, a full-strength Rabbitohs arguably would have won. Will that loss cost Souths later in the year?

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Last year, the NRL moved Rep Round to the weekend before Origin Two. It was a beautiful weekend, with Women’s Origin on Friday night, the Pacific Tests on Saturday night and Origin on Sunday night. The same weekend returns before Origin Two in Perth on Sunday June 23.

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Let’s play hypotheticals here: what if the Rep Round was extended to the full series, with a three-game Women’s Origin and a proper Pacific Tournament (with a first-past-the-post system to declare a tournament winner)?

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FIRST ORIGIN BYE ROUND

Friday May 31: Women’s Origin game one, North Sydney Oval.

Saturday June 1: Pacific Tournament – PNG v Fiji, Tonga v Samoa, Campbelltown Stadium.

Sunday June 2: State of Origin game one, Suncorp Stadium (Brisbane).

SECOND ORIGIN BYE ROUND

Friday June 21: Women’s Origin game two, North Sydney Oval.

Saturday June 22: Pacific Tournament – Fiji v Samoa, PNG v Tonga, CBUS Super Stadium.

Sunday June 2: State of Origin game two, Optus Stadium (Perth).

THIRD ORIGIN BYE ROUND

Friday July 5: Women’s Origin game two, North Sydney Oval.

Saturday July 6: Pacific Tournament – Samoa v PNG, Tonga v Fiji, Leichhardt Oval.

Sunday July 7: State of Origin game three, ANZ Stadium (Sydney).

While Channel Nine won’t like the move from Wednesday to Sunday nights, it would eliminate the nasty two-to-four day turnaround after Origin. Sunday is arguably the most competitive ratings night (perfect for rolling out popular reality TV shows, current affairs and heavily-hyped local telemovies), plus it’s more convenient that Wednesday night, when most people have to rush home from work to watch the game. Putting it on Sunday night for good allows fans to spend the day preparing Origin parties, BBQs or having a few pre-drinks at their favourite pub before kick off, or to really make a day of it before going to the game. From a footy standpoint, more exposure for the Women’s Origin is a must and a full Pacific Tournament will give us some really entertaining rugby league, and make those nations stronger for the next World Cup.

The biggest benefit: an Origin-heavy team’s club form won’t suffer by losing players. Origin players can fully focus for those six weeks and non-Origin players can either play Pacific Tests or enjoy a much-needed mid-season break.

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Deputy Sports Editor for the Australian Times Weekly

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