ANYONE watching State of Origin this morning will be salivating at a particular piece of gossip surrounding the 2019 Great Britain Lions tour of Australasia.
That is: that the first full GB tour since 1992 may feature games against New South Wales and Queensland.
The first half of the match at Suncorp Stadium, won 28-4 by the Blues, featured fantastic rugby league played at amazing pace. In the second session, NSW giant Andrew Fifita came to the fore and the Maroons missed the injured Johnathan Thurston, who may or may not be back for the second match of the series in three weeks.
As hard as it is to imagine, it was a game that went very close to living up to the myth that has grown up around this most-hyped of competitions. Origin stops the country Down Under in a way only the Melbourne Cup and the two major football grand finals can and for GB to get a slice of that IP would be an amazing achievement. Some of the lustre would surely rub off.
I stress, it’s only speculation at this stage.
But State of Origin sides have not played anyone but each other since the concept was invented back in 1980. There are a couple of asterisks; in 1983 Queensland toured Papua New Guinea and England but the squad was made up of those who lived in the Sunshine State.
GB Lions last toured Down Under in 2006
A return for the GB Lions is on the cards for 2019
The Maroons were beaten by Hull KR 8-6 before having handsome victories over Wigan (40-2) and Leeds (58-2).
And in 1997 Queensland and NSW teams chosen on an “origin” basis, but not technically “State of Origin” teams, each played a New Zealand selection in the short-lived Super League tri-series. Queensland beat New Zealand 26-12 and NSW downed them 20-15, leaving the old enemies to square off in a final that went for 104 minutes.
But that’s it; for 37 years Origin has been the most exclusive club in world sport (At least the equal most exclusive, unless there is a team somewhere that only plays itself) and there seems to be at least some chance GB will be admitted in the southern spring of 2019.
Imagine the hype in Brisbane of Queensland taking on international opposition for the first time in decades – and the first time ever involving players domiciled south of the border. A post-season run-out for the Maroons would pack Suncorp Stadium on a warm October evening.
Perhaps such a game would allow authorities to take the Tests to Perth, Melbourne and/or Adelaide. It would effectively be a five-Test series from a commercial point of view.
Before Origin, Australian state teams regularly played international opposition. The Blues toured New Zealand in the late seventies and in 1954, a NSW v Great Britain game at the Sydney Cricket Ground was called off due to violence.
Referee Aub Oxford simply threw up his hands and walked off in the direction of the members stand.
Perhaps, symbolically, the Lions and the NSW Blues could walk in the opposite direction, on the same patch of ground, in late 2019.
New South Wales v Great Britain