Considering that State of Origin actually goes back to 1908, the term ‘Queensland Spirit’ is just a modern-day myth


If you have listened, read or watched any NRL-related media in the last forty years, you have no doubt encountered some of the endless prattling on about ‘Queensland Spirit’.

How it is stronger, wider spread and just generally better than anything the poorly Blues could hope to match.

As a New South Welshman, it can be easy to start to believe this mythology concocted and reinforced by media personalities, especially since it seems to match up with results on the field.

As someone who didn’t see a Blues series victory the whole time I was in high school, I even believed that perhaps Queenslanders simply do ‘get’ rugby league better than we do.

That is, I did until I started to question why we seemed to only start our conversations about State of Origin in 1982.

You will never see video highlights of interstate games from before 1982 or hear anyone talk about the players involved.

Indeed, a lot of people who are below the age of fifty probably don’t even realise that there were regularly scheduled series between the states before it was rebranded as State of Origin, and there had been for as long as rugby league had been around in Australia.

New South Wales was so dominant in these games that by the time State of Origin was introduced, they were on a 20-year win streak.

Eight in a row doesn’t seem that bad compared to that, does it?

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Of the sixty-six series played from 1908 to 1981 (the world wars and Spanish flu interrupted our hatred for each other), New South Wales had outright won 50 of them.

Including these series in the overall tally of matches between New South Wales and Queensland means that the Blues have 70 titles to Queensland’s 37.

It seems very convenient to those of us in blue jerseys who have been flogged with this myth of an indomitable Queensland spirit that the records should only start with the 1982 State Of Origin when the ARL co-opted an advertising opportunity invented by the AFL.

At this point, the one or two Queenslanders you know who can read might throw out the objection that players in these matches had to play for the state in which their club team was located.

Since New South Wales clubs had a lot more money, especially beginning in the 1950s when pokies started pouring money into them, a fair few natural-born Queenslanders ended up playing for New South Wales.

A fair objection, at face value. Under scrutiny, it becomes far more muddy, just like a Queenslander’s birth certificate.

In 1981, the last year before State Of Origin, the New South Wales Squad had four non-NSW-born players across the two games, while Queensland had two non-Queenslanders.

Queensland celebrate their 1995 State of Origin triumph. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Queensland team still boasted three immortals: Wally Lewis, Mal Meninga and Arthur Beetson. They scored one try in total.

Where was the Queensland spirit then, or the 19 years before it?

This objection also ignores the fact that the use of pokies to fund NSW clubs only began in 1956 with a change in the law.

Even removing every series after that date, NSW had won 30, and Queensland just 10 to that point. Why do those records not count when it was such an even playing field?

By modern standards, four players in a state-of-origin squad not born in your state is quite low. Last year, Queensland had six players not born within their borders in their squad, although now they primarily poach from New Zealand.

This is not an argument to ban these players from playing State of Origin.

The point is that the past rules can only be applied to the past. We either accept the statistics and achievements that occurred during them, or we discount them all.

You cannot deny New South Wales their (rightful) winning record in interstate matches, which were played under the rules of the time, while also allowing the Roosters to claim that they have won 15 premierships when two of their titles were awarded without a grand final.

Or the Broncos to claim six premierships when one of them was the 1997 breakaway superleague that boasted such notable teams as the Hunter Mariners and the mighty Adelaide Rams.

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The mythology built around this ‘Queensland Spirit’ is new and factually incorrect when looking at the full context of interstate games.

For a longer period of history, Queenslanders were mercenaries who would happily destroy their own statesmen before a very successful rebranding.

So, proud New South Welshmen brethren, the next time you hear a maroon-clad moron bleating about ‘Queensland Spirit’, ask them where it was for the 73 years before the ‘modern-day’ State of Origin.

Don’t buy into Queensland PR, they can have their eight in a row, we’ll keep the 20, thanks.

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