The telling statistic is that Queensland has been greedier than NSW.
The telling statistic is that Queensland has been greedier than NSW. Claudia Baxter

One venue must now be neutral

I WILL probably be howled down, but not having two State of Origin games in Queensland next season - and beyond - is fair, and a forward step for our game.

Suncorp Stadium is 'due' two of the three games in 2013, but the ARL Commission has not yet confirmed that will be the case. Obviously the audacious bid by Victoria to grab one game each year - and offer big bucks to do so - is an attractive option for the ARLC.

In a bid to promote the game, Origin matches have been taken to Melbourne over the years. The first was in 1990, and have followed in '94, '95, '97, '06, '09 and again this year.

But the telling statistic is that Queensland has been greedier than NSW. Of the seven Origin matches played in Melbourne, the Blues have surrendered a home-ground advantage five times and the Maroons just twice.

In anyone's language that is an unfair imbalance because when Origin games come down to the wire these days, the home ground is a huge advantage. How often have we heard a player say 'the crowd got us home tonight'?

So to make the contest absolutely fair, no team should get an advantage. And they won't if a game is played in Melbourne - or somewhere else - annually.

But not only will playing one Origin game a year provide a neutral contest, it will continue to help grow the profile of what has become one of the most eagerly-awaited sporting events in the northern states. Origin has already captured the imagination of Victorians in a manner never envisaged.

At the weekend highly-respected veteran sports journalist Patrick Smith, who writes for The Australian, rated State of Origin Australia's premier sporting event. "Bigger than the Melbourne Cup, even bigger than the Ashes" he wrote.

Smith said the 2012 Origin series had confirmed that rugby league now possessed a hold over the nation that would only grow, not diminish. The code does not, he said, stutter under the splurge of AFL money and marketing.

From a Melbourne-based journo brought up on AFL and with no bent whatsoever for rugby league, that is an amazing admission. And it should be a message to the ARL Commission that playing an Origin game in Melbourne each year is reaping rewards.

Obviously State of Origin has become an event of its own and with players now demanding $50,000 a game, the ARLC would be derelict in its duty not to reap every single financial benefit. But just as importantly, taking one game away from the traditional homes makes it a totally fair three-match contest.



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