Written by Joshua Dean
State of Origin is the pinnacle of our sport. It is a great celebration of rugby league and the inter-state rivalry is one of the fiercest in sport.
However, we are missing out on a matchup that could match the quality and intensity of Origin, as well as help in making international rugby league more relevant.
Matches between New Zealand and Tonga in recent years have been highly entertaining and have created a real buzz around international fixtures. Rugby League feeds off great rivalries and an annual three-match series between New Zealand vs Tonga would benefit the game greatly.
State of Origin could be played on Wednesday like usual and New Zealand vs Tonga could be played on the following Saturday. Fans love Origin, however, are always wanting more afterwards so imagine having another high-intensity match a few days after. An annual three-match series between the two nations would change the sport for the better.
One major positive is that it would assist in making international rugby league much more competitive, instead of the usual Australian dominance. Part of the reason Australia is so good is that they gain a massive advantage from playing in high-intensity Origin games every year.
Other nations only get to play club football and then have to play in international tournaments. Most of these players aren’t as prepared for the step up that representative footy is compared to the Australians.
Unlike the Oceania Cup format, there should be a proper three-week club break. Origin can be played on Wednesdays, Cook Islands vs Samoa on Friday, New Zealand vs Tonga on Saturday and PNG vs Fiji on Sunday with each playing in a three-match series.
It would also be great to see this replicated in the Northern Hemisphere as well. We need to see the likes of Greece, Serbia and Lebanon playing against France and the UK Nations much more often.
During all non-World Cup years, we could have an annual tournament featuring the Kangaroos and other top nations during the end of October and throughout November.
It may sound like a pipe dream, but this would make international rugby league more relevant and competitive, as well as making rugby league as a sport more enticing for new people watching. Origin is amazing but some people are not connected to NSW or Queensland. This representative break would give every fan a sense of national pride and something to root for.