x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

State of Origin has case as sport's greatest

Fans of Australian rugby say the State of Origin series is the greatest in sport. Plenty can argue otherwise, but a case can be made it is up there.

In the eyes of Australian rugby league fans, the State of Origin is the greatest series in sport.

With meaningful international matches limited to games between Australia and New Zealand, there is a strong argument to say the series represents the highest level of rugby league played anywhere in the world. Sport's greatest series, though? Fans of the Ryder Cup, the British & Irish Lions tours and NHL's Stanley Cup will argue otherwise.

Yet more than 82,000 watched New South Wales level the three-match series against Queensland in Sydney thanks to a late Anthony Minichello try. It was their first win against their rivals in the past four attempts, and sets up the first series decider since 2008 in Game 3 at Brisbane on July 6.

These two heavyweights have been slugging it out annually since 1982 and such is the esteem in which the series is held, a number of players eligible to play for neighbouring countries have, in the past, opted to make themselves available for selection for Australia, a prerequisite for Origin selection.

Selection is based on where a player was born or where they made their first rugby league appearance, although there has been a blurring of the lines over the years. Greg Inglis's deflection to the Maroons in 2006, even though he was born in NSW, still rankles.

That passion is why you won't see an empty seat among the 52,500-capacity at Suncorp for the decider next month.