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Wednesday, 15 June 2011

A hidden Gem

No lessons to be learnt here just a good ole honest appreciation of one of the planet’s under-appreciated sporting spectacles....
Having worked in sports for close to 15 years now - my enjoyment of watching sport has changed from the days of my youth.  The business side of sports makes you watch in a different light - looking for innovation, for error, for ideas.  Consequently I watch less sport now than I used to (my wife will probably disagree), and certainly the enjoyment I get from watching sport is less than it used to be. (:-()
As a sports lover extraordinaire however, I still need my fix - and I find now that it is the bigger events that draw me in (again partially I guess because there is more scope to learn from these aswell).

The Superbowl and the Champions League final are the two biggest (TV) events on the planet - and certainly are great events.  But for me, the event (team category) that gets the excitement of my youth going again is the State of Origin.
It has a huge following over in Australia but the rest of the world just does not get it.  Of course the main reason for this is the global lack of awareness of Rugby League in general - but State of Origin has the ability to stand on its own as a truly great sporting event, and also as a key weapon in growing rugby league’s popularity.
Why is it so much fun? 
Quality of the players - it really is the best in the world playing against each other - and this happens very rarely in other sports.  Generally two teams will have a good number of great players in their midst but not ALL of the best (look at Fabregas at Arsenal for example).  Because the best players are selected to represent their state, the State of Origin delivers probably the highest % of ‘great ones’ in a sporting event of all team sporting contests. (Apologies to the Kiwi / British players who consider themselves equal to the Aussies in the team).
Don’t believe me?? - the game this morning had 1 (if that) error in the entire first half.  This in a game where teams are programmed to generate errors from the opposition.
REAL competition - The American All Star games that each sport holds do also showcase the best in their sport’s field - but these games are treated more as a bit of fun, a get together with friends, a chance to relax on court/pitch/ice.  Still fun to watch, but nowhere near the intensity of the State of Origin series - where the result is all important.  This season’s State of Origin sees New South Wales trying to end 5 years of Queensland dominance (a huge period of time).  And you can tell how much the NSW team want to win!!
Intense Rivalry and Passion - the culture of the sport in Australia is that the Queenslanders and the New South Welshmen really don’t get on  - and when they go to battle (over sport) the whole state is behind them.  Bragging rights are established for the months ahead, and the banter is taken to a ‘whole ‘nother level’.  This rivalry then generates huge levels of passion - amongst the players and the supporter base.  It means so much to the combatants - of course it means more to the supporters.
Paul Gallen, the New South Wales captain, today played the entire game of 80 minutes in one of the hardest (physically) positions on the pitch.  State of Origin drove him on to achieve this.
It always seems to deliver - given the build up, given the intensity between the teams (and states) - it almost seems to guarantee a must watch spectacle.  This morning’s game did not have any real moments of brilliance (apart from the sheer wonder at the levels the players were sustaining).  But the joy of State of Origin is in knowing that you are watching the best of the best go at it to the best of their ability - and for this - it always delivers.
The series stands at one apiece right now (after NSW won this morning) - if you want to watch Rugby at its best - then make sure you book your seat (if you can find a station showing it - see issues above!) on July 6th.

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