It has been six days since State of Origin II at the Melbourne Cricket Ground where over 91,000 raving mad fans packed the famous stadium to watch New South Wales defeat Queensland 26-18.
I didn’t want to write a piece on Origin II straight afterward because in that moment I was so fired up I wanted all Origins, grand finals, internationals and everything in between to be played in Melbourne.
Yours truly was there amongst it, in Blatchy’s Blues no less. What a night it was. I think I tweeted straight after the Blues win, “What a bloody game, what a bloody night!” as thousands of feverish rugby league fans streamed out of the ‘G.
The game itself lived up to its billing and entertained the Victorians in the stands and watching at home, that was the goal. Behind us and down to our left were a number of Richmond Tigers AFL fans who had shown up to see what all the fuss was about. They were so pumped by the anarchy on and off the field that they promised to be at the Melbourne Storm vs. Brisbane Broncos game the following Sunday. Whether they showed for that one is anyone’s guess. Replays of the game suggest the Maroons had most of the support but such is the size of the MCG, you could be forgiven for thinking there was 91,000 Blues fans if you were sitting in their areas.
Paul Gallen was a wanker at one end of the field, Billy Slater the villain at the other.
Beer flowed like a 9th century Germanic Viking reunion; some Melbournians couldn’t believe the intact.
Then there were the pre-game fireworks and light show. We’d never seen anything like it. This was Rolling Stones, Superbowl stuff.
Rugby league was the winner for a few short days while the Victorian Government is laughing all the way to the bank with millions upon millions being pumped into their economy.
Origin was great but we don’t want to reinvent the wheel down there. AFL is king and so it shall be until an asteroid destroys us all sometime in the future. That’s just Melbourne.
But the possibilities for rugby league and the opportunity to use Origin as a marketing chip for new markets around the globe is mouthwatering.
We’ve only seen the tip of this golden goose.
Diehard AFL types will argue that it’s finished now and there is nothing like Aussie Rules. Have your AFL; there is plenty of the population to go around. The best part for the NRL is the Victorian Government has had a real taste now; they’ll be swimming in money for months after Origin II. Next time round they’ll fork out even more cash, so will other governments and that means rugby league and Origin is back in front of these potential new fans again and again and again.
But back to Melbourne.
I’ve been told plenty of times that AFL is a religion in Victoria, like league is in Sydney and Brisbane. I was expecting to get off the plane and see logos and team colours everywhere, AFL superstars’ faces all over billboards, trams and taxis. But I didn’t see any of that. A few beanies here and there, a scarf or two but there wasn’t this outrageous public outpouring we all assume Melbourne bestows on its Aussie Rules gods.
It’s a classy and bloody cold town and obviously AFL is number one, but the people really did embrace Origin and you might be surprised how long some Victorians remember the night Origin packed the MCG and the Blues and Maroons battled away for eighty grueling minutes.
I was at the Carlton and United Brewery doing a tour when I met a pair of brothers from Newcastle, Dragons and Roosters fans.
The first thing they said was, “Curtis, if they ever play Origin in Auckland or Perth I’m there too!”
Before you bag Origin being played outside its original borders, consider buying a ticket to the next match in Melbourne, Perth or Auckland.
If you still can’t enjoy yourself, you’re just too hard to please.
Video Source: NRL Highlights 2015