|Sport Rugby league|
Country Australia (ARLC)
Number of teams 2
Broadcast partner Nine Network
Inaugural season 1980 State of Origin game
|Shield Holders Queensland Maroons (2016)|
Website Official State of Origin website
The State of Origin series is the annual best-of-three Australian rugby league football match series between two state representative sides, the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons.
- Interstate Rugby League prior to 1980
- The conception of State of Origin football
- 1987 American controversy
- Selection rules
- Year by year
- Wally Lewis Medal
- Under 20s
- Womens State of Origin
Referred to as Australian sport's greatest rivalry, the State of Origin series is one of Australia's and the region's premier sporting events, attracting huge television audiences and usually selling out the stadiums in which the games are played. Despite the existence of international tournaments and State of Origin being a domestic competition, it is frequently cited as being the highest-level of rugby league played anywhere in the world.
Players are selected to represent the Australian state in which they played their first senior rugby league game, hence the name 'state of origin'. Prior to 1980 players were only selected for interstate matches on the basis of where they were playing their club football at the time. In both 1980 and 1981 there were two interstate matches under the old selection rules and one experimental "State of Origin" match. From 1982 onwards a best-of-three match series has been played around the middle of the rugby league season for the State of Origin shield. Since its inception, total victories for each side were once extraordinarily even, however between 2006 and 2013 Queensland won every series.
Since the 1908 establishment of rugby league in Australia, the sport's two major states, New South Wales and Queensland, have played representative matches against each other which have continued into the "state of origin" era which began in the 1980s. The two states' teams are frequently referred to as the Blues and Maroons, reflecting the respective colours of their jerseys. These were the colours of the Australia national rugby league team's jersey until the adoption of the green and gold. The Blues team is administered by the New South Wales Rugby League and the Maroons by the Queensland Rugby League. The New South Wales team are sometimes referred to by the nickname "cockroaches" and the Queensland team as "cane toads", due to a marketing campaign used in the 1980s where the respective teams were caricatured as such.
Whilst other Australian states also have representative rugby league teams, they have not competed in State of Origin.
Interstate Rugby League prior to 1980
The first calls for a state of origin selection policy in interstate rugby football came before the schism between the union and league codes eventuated in Australia. In 1900 a journalist known as 'The Cynic' wrote in The Referee that star rugby player and recent immigrant to Queensland, Stephen Spragg, should be able to play for his home state of New South Wales.
Since the beginning of Australian rugby league in 1908, an interstate competition between New South Wales and Queensland has been conducted from time to time. Until 1982 each team drew its players from the clubs based in that state. No consideration was given to the origins of the players themselves.
The first of these interstate games was played at Sydney's Agricultural Ground on 11 July 1908, before Queensland had even commenced its club competition. New South Wales easily accounted for Queensland in a 43–0 victory. The local media were unimpressed.There can be no doubt the NSW men are improving a good deal... They cannot be blamed for the farce, for it was nothing else. If the Australian team depends on Queenslanders to strengthen it, one is afraid it will be found wanting. They are quite the weakest lot of footballers I have even seen come down from Queensland. The play needs no detailed description as it was simply a practice match for NSW, and certainly did not advantageously advertise the new game. -The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1908
The interstate series was dominated by New South Wales, apart from a golden period for Queensland in the 1920s. From 1922 to 1925 Queensland defeated New South Wales 11 times in 12 matches. At the end of the 1925 season a Kangaroo team was to be picked for touring Great Britain. Instead of announcing an Australian team dominated by Queenslanders, the Australian Rugby League Board of Control informed the media that the Rugby Football League had decided that the Kiwis would provide stronger opposition, and that there would be no Australian tour. The period spanning 1922 to 1929 saw no Australian team play in Great Britain, the only such hiatus outside the two World Wars.
The New South Wales dominance of interstate football increased after 1956 when gaming machines were legalised for all registered clubs in New South Wales. This provided New South Wales football clubs with a revenue source unmatched by Queensland clubs. From this time on an increasing number of Queensland players moved to the much stronger Sydney competition, becoming ineligible for Queensland state selection. Paul Hogan famously told a Queensland Rugby League gathering in 1977 that "every time Queensland produces a good footballer, he finishes up being processed through a New South Wales poker machine."
Prior to 1956, NSW had won 75% and Qld only 25% of series played. From 1956–1981, NSW dominance soared even higher and Qld wins dwindled to only 3.8% with only 1 series win, in 1959.
The conception of State of Origin football
By the 1970s the prestige of interstate matches had been seriously downgraded. Matches were played mid-week, so as not to interfere with the Sydney club competition, and the small crowds in New South Wales were hosted at suburban grounds. Interstate football reached its nadir in 1977 when the New South Wales Rugby Football League (NSWRFL) declined to host the Queensland team, and both interstate games were played in Queensland.
Former Queensland captain and Australian vice-captain Jack Reardon, who had later become a journalist, was the first to suggest that Sydney-based Queenslanders should be available for selection to represent their state.
Brisbane Courier-Mail reporter Hugh Lunn, Barry Maranta (the future co-founder of the Brisbane Broncos)  and Maranta's business partner Wayne Reid played a part in persuading QRL chairman Ron McAullife that the concept could be used in rugby league. Lunn told McAullife that "you can take the Queenslander out of Queensland, Ron, but you can't take the Queensland out of the Queenslander." McAuliffe was initially sceptical. "What if we recall our boys from Sydney to play, and we are beaten. Where would we go from there?" Reid spoke to NSWRFL president Kevin Humphreys and suggested that a one-off state of origin match could be used as a Test Match selection trial. 
New South Wales clubs were reticent in their support of the concept and set two conditions:
Three Sydney clubs remained opposed to the plan: St. George Dragons, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Eastern Suburbs Roosters. As these clubs were refusing to release players, Humphreys threatened to make the game an official Australian Rugby League trial, which would make release mandatory. The clubs backed down.
After Queensland lost the first two interstate matches in 1980 (35–3 and 17–7, the second game in front of only 1,638 Sydneysiders) it was announced that a 'state of origin' match would take place on 8 July at Lang Park in Brisbane. The New South Wales media gave both the event, and Queensland's chance of winning it, little credence, calling the game a "three day wonder". Australia's 1978 captain Bob Fulton called the match "the non-event of the century". Ron MacAullife however, was now committed to the concept and vigorously promoted the match. Thousands of tickets were sold before the game had been officially sanctioned. Although interstate matches in Brisbane had still been well attended (24,653 had attended the opening match of the 1979 series), few expected the sell-out crowd of 33,210 Queensland rugby league fans, delighted to see their heroes in the likes of Arthur Beetson representing their home state for the first time ever. Queensland convincingly beat New South Wales 20–10.
In 1981 the first two interstate matches were again played under the old selection rules. As New South Wales won the first two matches in the series, state of origin selection rules were used once more in the third match. Although New South Wales ran out to an early 15–0 lead in the game, Queensland rallied to win 22–15.
The interest generated by the experimental state of origin matches of 1980 and 1981 and the potential for financial rewards were enough to convince the authorities to play all three games under state of origin rules the following year.
Despite the Maroons' success so far in the State of Origin experiments, the New South Wales media dismissed the seriousness of the Queensland threat to the Blues' long-held dominance in series wins. Queensland however, under the leadership of immortal captain Wally Lewis, was inspired by this, and for the first three State of Origin series Queensland won 2 matches to 1.
However, in 1985, under the leadership of captain Steve Mortimer, New South Wales won the deciding match in front of 29,068 spectators at the Sydney Cricket Ground, claiming the series for the first time. The following year the Blues were able to go one better and complete the first state of origin whitewash, taking the series 3–0.
Barry Gomersall, from Sarina, Queensland (1945–2007) was notorious for his refereeing of nine State of Origin matches between 1982 and 1988. Queensland rugby league team won seven of those matches, leading to accusations of bias and match-fixing. Gomersall himself did little to disassociate himself from those claims, famously referring to the only two matches under his control won by New South Wales rugby league team; "Surely anyone's entitled to two bad games". Queenslanders, on the other hand, were generally of the view that Sydney referees were no more to be relied on to give unbiased rulings in the games they controlled.
1987: American controversy
After Queensland had won the 1987 series 2–1, a fourth game was played at Long Beach, California to showcase rugby league to the American public.
In Origin: Rugby League's Greatest Contest 1980–2002 (2003) Queensland writer Jack Gallaway tells a story:There was one additional Origin contest played in 1987. The Queenslanders had climbed the mountain and at no point did they take the project seriously in any competitive sense. The State of Origin trophy was safely stowed in the Queensland Rugby League board room at Lang Park, and for the Maroons the visit to the United States was their end-of-season outing, the game an exhibition... Such was the Blues' disappointment at the loss of the State of Origin series that they would go to any length to restore some vestige of their lost pride. The New South Wales Rugby League hierarchy told their men to prepare for the contest as though it was a deciding test match. The match was played at the Veterans Memorial Stadium in Long Beach, California in front of 12,349 fans. The Blues won the game 30–18.
In 1987 the Australian Rugby League (ARL), New South Wales Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League agreed that the match would only count towards the players' individual statistics. On 15 July 2003 the Australian Rugby League (whose primary members are originally from the New South Wales Rugby League) announced that the fourth 1987 game was to be classified as an official match, and that a win in the state of origin match on 16 July 2003 would take New South Wales into the overall lead.
ARL and NSWRL chief executive Geoff Carr said: "There had been some debate over whether the Origin fixture . . . in 1987 was counted as an official match but a search of ARL records has confirmed the status conferred on that clash by the game's governing body at the time. In announcing the match in Big League in April 1987, Ken Arthurson, the ARL's chief executive in 1987, was quoted as saying 'It's an exciting experiment but the match isn't and won't be billed as an exhibition match'."
After the controversy of the match played in the United States, the Queensland halves pairing of Allan Langer and Wally Lewis led the Maroons in their 3–0 series wins in both 1988 and 1989. The rise of the Canberra Raiders in the then Winfield Cup club competition produced for the Blues the formidable halves combination of Ricky Stuart and Laurie Daley who brought New South Wales back from defeat with two wins in the opening games of the 1990 series. It was evident that as the rivalry between the two states grew, the Origin matches had become much more physical forward orientated game than the open running play seen in earlier series.
As the great Queensland players from the 1980s began to retire from the game, the Maroons struggled with a team of fresh faces and considerable inexperience. The 1992, 1993 and 1994 series all went to NSW as the talent and experience of Blues players such as Brett Mullins, Daley and Stuart in the backs and Benny Elias and Bradley Clyde in the forwards gave the Blues the edge when the games were on the line. It wasn't until the upheaval of the Super League war in 1995 that the Maroons were able to again clinch a series.
A main cause for concern for Queensland was the fact that the Brisbane Broncos, its players and many other Queenslanders were not aligned with the ARL prohibiting any players signed with the Super League to play for the Maroons. Despite this the Queenslanders won the 1995 series 3–0 in a shocking white-wash. The 1996 series saw the off-field contract dramas put aside as all players were allowed, regardless of contract, state of origin selection. Having the majority of the Queenslanders back didn't help the Maroons though as the Blues 1996 white-wash with a 3–0 series win of their own.
The Australian game divided in 1997 into two competitions, one run by the ARL and one by the News Limited-owned Super League, and an interstate series was played in each. Under the Super League banner there was a Tri-Origin series with a New Zealand side added to the competition. The ARL meanwhile stuck to its traditional format. The teams were selected using origin rules, and New South Wales and Queensland met twice. These matches do not count towards the official state of origin record. As with the premiership, players were spread between two representative tournaments as well.
The competitions merged again in 1998 as the current National Rugby League, and the series that year proved to be enthralling as both sides won a game each a way from home, setting up a decider at the Sydney Football Stadium where 39,000 fans witnessed the visiting Queenslanders take the series 2–1. The end of the decade saw a dramatic series with each side taking one game each and game three ending in a draw. Queensland were awarded the series as at the time the previous winners retained the interstate honours.
The early to mid-2000s saw New South Wales starting to assert its traditional interstate dominance, causing some commentators [who?] to question State of Origin' future. However, this imbalance tipped in the third and deciding game of the 2006 State of Origin series, which is seen as the starting point of Queensland's unprecedented dynasty. The 2008 series was won by Queensland making it three series in a row. New South Wales won Game 1 on 21 May 2008, however Queensland won Game 2 on 11 June 2008, and also Game 3 on 2 July 2008. Queensland followed this up by winning the first two games of the 2009 series becoming the first state to win four series in a row.
Queensland won its historic, record breaking, fifth consecutive Origin series with a 23–18 win in the third and final match of the State of Origin, 2010. This was the first Queensland team to win all three consecutive State of Origin Games in 15 years. Queensland full back Billy Slater won man of the match in the third game and was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal as Man of the Series in 2010.
The 2010 State of Origin series was also the second televised program in Australia to be shot in 3D 1080i DVB-T as well as being simultaneously broadcast in regular 576i and 1080i DVB-T and PAL.
In the first game of the 2011 series Queensland defeated New South Wales 16–12. In the second game of the 2011 series New South Wales defeated Queensland 18–8. Queensland won the series 34–24 in the 2011 decider in what was Queensland captain Darren Lockyer's 36th and final game. Cameron Smith won man of the match in both the first and third game and was awarded the Wally Lewis Medal as Man of the Series.
In 2012, then NRL CEO David Gallop introduced the Under-20s State of Origin for Toyota Cup players which saw New South Wales winning. Queensland went on to win an historic 7th series win in 2012, winning the final game by 1 point.
In 2013, New South Wales defeated Queensland 14 to 6 in game 1, Queensland defeated New South Wales 26 to 6 in game 2, while in game 3 Queensland defeated New South Wales 12 to 10 to take out the overall Origin title for the eighth consecutive time. The 2013 series set a new State of Origin television ratings record for a whole series since the 2001 introduction of the ratings system.
In 2014, New South Wales defeated Queensland 12-8 in the first game of the series, and 6-4 in the second. In the third game Queensland defeated New South Wales 32-8 after scoring the first try of the game in the 37th minute, with Queensland leading 6-2 in the first half. This gave the Blues the first series win in 8 years.
In 2015, Queensland defeated New South Wales 11-10 in game 1 played in Sydney, New South Wales defeated Queensland 26-18 in game 2 played in Melbourne, Queensland defeated New South Wales 52-6 in games 3 played in Brisbane, winning the series 2-1.
In 2016, Queensland defeated New South Wales 6-4 in game 1 and won the series following a 26-16 win in the second match. New South Wales closed off the series with a 18-14 win over Queensland.
In 2013, each individual game in the series drew a higher Australian television audience than any other sporting event. In recent years the series has gained popularity outside of New South Wales and Queensland, with games played in Melbourne drawing record crowds and local television ratings comparable to those of many Victorian AFL matches. Internationally, the series is televised in 91 countries, and is a national obsession in Papua New Guinea, occasionally sparking riots, violence and deaths. It also draws a strong following in neighbouring New Zealand.
Within Australia, Nine Network is the main over-the-air broadcaster for the series, with replays airing on Fox Sports. The series is also broadcast on radio by ABC Grandstand.
Setanta Sports broadcasts live matches in Asia. In the United States, Fox Soccer televised all matches live using the Nine airfeed since 2011, with the coverage moving to Fox Sports 2 when Fox Soccer was discontinued in August 2013. Premier Sports broadcasts live coverage of State of Origin in the UK.
Another twist on the coverage was Roy and HG's State of Origin commentary on Australian youth radio network Triple J. This broadcast was presented by the characters "Rampaging" Roy Slaven and HG Nelson (played by John Doyle and Greig Pickhaver), who commentated the game with a unique comedic style. Roy and HG's broadcasts began in the late 1980s, and continued until 2008. Roy and HG moved from Triple J to radio network Triple M in 2009, at which point the duo ceased their State of Origin commentary.
Under State of Origin rules players were previously selected for the state in which they first played senior (or registered) rugby league. In 2012, the NSWRL, CRL, QRL and ARLC agreed on new criteria in determining Origin eligibility, to encompass other factors, such as place of birth . Players must also be eligible to represent Australia at international level.
From time to time the selection of players under the State of Origin rules creates controversy. Since 1980, Queensland has completed just the 7 series with a team completely made up of players of a Queensland birth, while for New South Wales the total is only 6. However, place of birth has only been a relevant factor in eligibility since 2012.
An issue of contention has been the selection of players such as Peter Sterling, Ken Nagas, James McManus, Israel Folau and Greg Inglis. Folau was born and raised in New South Wales but is eligible to play for Queensland as he played his first senior rugby league match in Queensland. Ken Nagas was born and raised in Queensland but decided to play for New South Wales, Peter Sterling was born in Toowoomba, Queensland and raised in Wagga Wagga, Newcastle & Sydney, all in New South Wales, while McManus was born in Scotland and was raised in the Northern Territory, but was ruled eligible to play for New South Wales in the 2009 series.
The selection of Greg Inglis by Queensland was disputed. The Queensland Rugby League selected him based on the fact that either Wavell State High School or Brisbane Norths was Inglis' first senior football, making him eligible for both states per the rules at the time. However Inglis had previously played for Hunter Sports High School in Newcastle, New South Wales, in the Arrive Alive Cup; considered to be a senior competition. Hunter Sports High coach Steve Dunn said "there was some talk the other day that he was actually brought to Queensland before his 16th birthday but I was coach of the team. He played for us at 16, he's a Blue". The controversy led to the creation of the "That's In Queensland" viral video.
Due to the clarification of selection rules the Sims brothers are eligible for different States. Tariq and Ashton are eligible for New South Wales while Korbin Sims is eligible for Queensland. Previously father and son combinations, such as Steve and Mat Rogers have represented different states. This duo was especially notable because Mat was born in New South Wales and played for Queensland while Steve was born in Queensland and played for New South Wales. Steve Rogers played his first senior game of rugby League for the Southport Tigers on Queenslands Gold Coast
Foreign born players have also represented each state. New Zealand has had several players, such as Brad Thorn, Ben Te'o, Craig Smith, Willie Mason, Tonie Carroll, James Tamou and Karmichael Hunt play Origin. Tamou's selection by New South Wales in 2012 was controversial as he was born in Palmerston North and played for the Junior Kiwis, lived in New Zealand until he moved to Sydney when he was 13 and was included in the New Zealand Kiwis training squad for the 2011 Four Nations. Both Hunt and Tamou played for Australia before being selected for State of Origin. Other players, such as Sam Kasiano and Jason Taumalolo are also eligible, creating concern in the New Zealand Rugby League. Apart from representing Queensland, Brad Thorn is also a dual rugby international, having played international rugby league for Australia, and international rugby union for the All Blacks.
Papua New Guinea-born Adrian Lam and Fijian-born Lote Tuqiri, Akuila Uate and Petero Civoniceva have also played Origin. Benny Elias was born in Lebanon and has played for and captained NSW. Mario Fenech was born in Malta and has played for NSW. The most recent case of a foreign born player being selected was the selection of former Samoan international, Ben Te'o, by Queensland in game three of the 2012 season.
A report into eligibility based on a player's birth state showed; "Of the 18 series that QLD has won, it had the greater percentage of non-State [born] players in its side on 14 of those occasions – revealing a 77.8% dependency. Of the 13 series that NSW has won, on five of those occasions it had the higher percentage of non-State [born] players across the series – revealing a 38.5% dependency."
- In 1995 and 1997 Super League players were made ineligible for the ARL State of Origin series selection. This included most of Queensland's usual team, who now played for the Super League affiliated Brisbane Broncos. The ARL hence decided to relax the rules in those years, allowing Queensland to select Adrian Lam who had previously played for Papua New Guinea. The 1995 Origin series was the scene of the biggest upset in Origin history when the relatively inexperienced Maroon's swept a NSW side, who even without their Super League players could still boast a number of senior Origin and international players, 3-0.
- During the 2000 World Cup a number of Australian players were granted dispensations to appear for other nations under the grandparent rule. The players affected were David Barnhill (NSW), Kevin Campion (Qld), Tonie Carroll (Qld), Graham Mackay (NSW), Willie Mason (NSW), Luke Ricketson (NSW), Lote Tuqiri (Qld) and Adrian Vowles (Qld),  
ResultsFor full results and statistics, see State of Origin results and statistics
Year by year
Of the 35 full series played, Queensland have won 20, New South Wales 13, with 2 series drawn (Queensland retained the Shield on both occasions as the previous year's winner). With the addition of three one-off games that were played in 1980, 1981 and 1987, the total number of games played is 108. Queensland have won 58, New South Wales have won 48, with 2 matches being drawn.
The series of 1999 and 2002 are considered drawn series, as both New South Wales and Queensland won a single game of each 3 match series, with the final game concluding in a draw. At that time there was no overtime rule to break the deadlock, and by the same set of rules, Queensland retained the shield as they were the previous holders, but did not win the series. Due to controversy around the second drawn series, and the rule awarding the series champions to Queensland, the rules were subsequently changed to rule out drawn matches and series. Equal points at the close of full-time are now resolved with the golden point method.
Wally Lewis Medal
From 1992 to 2003 the Wally Lewis Medal was awarded by the Queensland Rugby League for the Queensland player of the series. Since 2003 it has been awarded to the player of the series, irrespective of state. The following players have been awarded the Wally Lewis Medal for player of the series.1
The Under 20s State of Origin has only had five seasons so far (2012 to 2016) with only one game a year, instead of three. New South Wales has won all of them. They play for the Darren Lockyer Shield.
Women's State of Origin
The Women's State of Origin is the Women's rugby league version of the game and has been running since 1999 and they play for the Nellie Doherty Cup.