What's in a Name? State of Origin
McDonalds, Nike, Holden, Panasonic - these are examples of business names that are instantly recognisable in the consumer market.by NRL
McDonalds, Nike, Holden, Panasonic - these are examples of business names that are instantly recognisable in the consumer market. Companies treasure their branding and anything to do with it like their life depended on it, which in business terms, it does. Whether you like their product or not, you hear the name and you know exactly what it is.
State of Origin. This is the NRL's biggest brand name. As league fans, we have always looked forward to the mid-season clash of the titans. My question is this - does anyone really know what it means anymore?
I used to LOVE this time of year. I remember in 1999, I had auditioned to be on Wheel of Fortune, and I got a call from the producers saying I was successful and that the date of taping was a Wednesday in June. I checked my diary, and saw it was a State of origin night, so I apologised and told them I had to work that night (straight out lie). They told me that I was not guaranteed another call, as the demographics had to be covered, but I said I had to work and that I would appreciate their consideration going forward as I would love the opportunity, but I couldn't make it that night. I turned my back on the Wheel because of an Origin game, as this was so important to me (I can happily report I did get on the show, and still have the Brosnan's to prove it. But I digress)
I went to Darren Lockyer's last game at Suncorp last year. He spoke after the game, and while I am blue through and through, I will always remember a line he said (apologies if it is not exactly the same words) - " it has been my honour to represent you". He would have played Origin for free, to wear the jersey as a proud Queenslander, which was mighty impressive. I'm sure there are many players who still have similar sentiments, but I wonder how do they really feel about the Kiwis or Islanders or guys from interstate who are lining up next to them?
You will read in the papers that selections are justified, and that "if they want to play for us, it is up to them" and other copy provided on a platter from various media managers. Both teams want to win, so regardless of where the man is from, if he is good, either state will want them. Both states have bent the rules to suit themselves since the concept began. It goes all the way back to when Steve Rogers wore blue, and we have lost count of the Peter Sterlings and Adrian Lams and Willie Masons and Karmichael Hunts who have played State of Origin, and while all fans dearly want bragging rights, it is not a true representation of the talent from your state, but rather who feels like playing for them. How can league fans say "we are the best" when their state wins, when "we" means Queenslanders, Fijians, New South Welshmen, Kiwis and anywhere else? Would the victory be sweeter if the entire team was made up of those born and bred in your state, rather than with a bunch of ring-ins? The way State of Origin is determined is not unlike the Springfield Power Plant softball team. I would say that City vs Country is the only true game of the year that is exactly what it says it is, but relevance for that is another argument altogether.
While any business does not want to kill off a leading brand, why can't the NRL just call it what it is - Best of the Best. It has nothing to do with the state of your origin (how can you dispute it when Israel Folau and Jarryd Hayne went to the same school?), but a representation of the best players in the NRL. As there is such a miniscule percentage of players who can't be currently selected, it isn't really a true representation of state of origin or best of the best, so here it is - open it up to everyone. Please, readers, you will have to open your mind a little, but do not kid yourselves any longer that State of Origin has anything to do with anything except business and bragging rights, so why exclude any NRL superstar from the biggest games of the year? There are a squillion ways to determine whether you played for Blue or Maroon (keep the colours as they are part of the brand, but understand that they are just colours and not a state, it would be the same as saying Team X vs Team Y), such as birth certificate, the first NRL club you played for, or just pick one on the day you make your NRL debut. Doesn't matter where you are from, be given (or select) your team, and in the future that is who you aim to represent because the of coin involved (no different to a salesman hitting his goals in a year and getting paid his bonus). If you think about it though, picking Blue or Maroon is not much different to a lot of sports fans and who they support (I mean, how many people go for Manchester United and don't even know where it is on a map?).
The concept of State of Origin is currently (again) under siege, and rightly so, with James Tamou and possibly Sam Kasiano the latest NZ passport holders who want to play State of Origin not only for the pay but as it is considered the biggest rugby league you can compete in. What sportsman doesn't want to reach the pinnacle of their sport - I have considered calling up the Namibian consulate to declare my eligibility for them so I can get to the Commonwealth Games for lawn bowls, as I will never get selected for Australia.
My point is this - the concept has evolved since it began over 20 years ago. There aren't too many companies in the world who had a great idea 20 years ago and who haven't updated it to remain current (video recorders, walkmans etc). The NRL need to either draw a line in the sand and state very, very, very clearly that eligibility for State of Origin is ________________________ , or just call it what it is and make it bigger and brighter and current. Until either of these occurs, the arguments and issues that divide our game will continue, and any negative talk in the media about a companies' biggest brand can only be detrimental to its health. How can the NRL afford this with other codes breathing down their throat, especially when they are trying to sign the biggest deal in their history?
Come on - tell me you wouldn't want to see Sam Burgess in a blue jersey.
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