Saturday, 10 September 2016

Welcome To Origin's Off-Field Theatre (2016)

Welcome to the State of Origin period of the NRL season. That time of year where club football is tossed aside for two months like…who cares. For the uninitiated, there’s a set routine to this time of year which you need to know about.

Firstly, you need to understand that the word Origin is for decorative purposes only and is not to be considered literally. Both sides could make up a 17-man side each of players who didn’t originate from the state they represented. Don’t think about it or ask any questions, it’s not worth the drama.

It all starts off rather innocuously after Round 2 of the NRL season, where everyone starts predicting their Origin sides based on very little. These predictions change every week and hold as much value as the NRL season during Origin period.

The week before Game 1 of the series comes the announcement of the sides. This is a big event for both sides. For Queensland, they just announce the side that played last year, only making changes due to injuries or retirements. The media collectively calls them “too old” and no chance, despite the fact they’ve won nine of the last 10 series.

For New South Wales, they bring a bit more theatre to the event. Leading up to the naming of the side is talk that there will be mass changes, followed by coach Laurie Daley saying ‘incumbent’ a lot.
Then when his side is announced, it tends to contain a lot of players in out-of-form sides at the wrong end of the competition ladder, along with at least one player who is what has become known as ‘the headscratcher’.

No one knows why this player is selected; they have usually been in horrible form and are behind several other far better players. Everyone is quietly left scratching their heads, confused and asking ‘why?’ a lot. Is it a ploy to confuse the Maroons? Well no, because it has never worked.

The headscratcher for 2016 is Dylan Walker.

Poor Dylan had a great few seasons as a centre at Souths before joining Manly this year, where he was hastily turned into a mediocre five-eighth. He hasn’t come close to the good form he had been in of previous seasons, while Manly has struggled to convince anyone they are capable of reaching the top eighth.

Has he been picked as a back-up half, and if so, why? Are the halves named not good enough? How bad must they be if Walker is deemed capable of covering them?

If not a half, then perhaps as a centre or winger? Why put a centre on the bench in Origin? He’s not a utility player. Until this season he had played 58 games at centre, one at fullback and three at five-eighth. He’s about as versatile as an Allen key.

These are questions you will ask daily until the team announcement for Game 2 is revealed and the headscratcher has been omitted.

After the third game has concluded, everyone then remembers that there was club football being played a few months ago. Players, commentators, officials, fans and the media all then complain about how Origin ruins the NRL season, before forgetting its existence a week later as everyone gears up for the NRL finals.
Welcome to Origin!

**This article appeared on the Commentary Box Sports website**

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