Forget East vs West. Bring back State of Origin #AFLnotNBA

If you’re a Twitter using knob like I am, inevitably you’ll find yourself following AFL players.

There’s a couple of articles worth of material on the wider issue of players using Twitter – Is it a good way to engage with fans? Do we really want to know what our heroes are up to at any given moment? Did Buddy actually pay for followers? – but for now I’m just going to accept the fact that they do, and I follow lots of them.

The key takeaway, as your intellectually tepid middle manager would say in a meeting, from reading player’s Tweets is that almost to a man they love American sports, the NBA in particular.

During the NBA Finals, the players I follow were Tweeting madly, following every play.

For mine, this is the key driver behind the move towards having an East vs West All Star Game. Now I’m one of these wowsers who doesn’t want a representative game. If a North player gets injured in one, so be it.

But if we do have a representative game, it must be State of Origin. While we have taken much from the American sports – salary caps, drafts etc – we are still our own indigenous code with our own traditions. State of Origin is one of those.

Anyone who reads the forums at BigFooty would be instantly aware that state-based rivalries are alive and well. Claims of Victorian media bias and conspiracies abound while those of those from the home of football (see, it is almost unconscious sometimes) routinely refer to the likes of Port and West Coast as “interstate clubs”, a term that seems like common sense to us but implies somehow an otherness or inferiority to people not from the small south eastern corner.

That’s what made State of Origin footy so entertaining. Instead of endless insult trading online and in pubs, we had a real contest – the Western Australians could demonstrate once and for all that they were better than the Vics or South Australians. That’s something we should be holding onto, not casting to the dustbin of history in favour of aping the American set up.

The push for the All Star game reportedly came from the players. At one level this is really encouraging. It shows the players are keen on representative footy and appreciate that the fans love the idea of seeing the best of the best facing off, that they too value the idea of being involved in testing themselves in such a way.

I have no doubt that it is this fascination with US sports that drives the desire for an All Star game rather than a return to State of Origin. I can see where they are coming from too: the NBA All Star Weekend is a magnificent spectacle. It is a shining example of the hoopla and bells and whistles that the Americans do so well, better than anyone else in fact.

But it isn’t us. The All Star game is more about individual performances than anything else. For me, and I’m sure I’m hardly alone here, the highlight is by far and away the slam dunk competition, possibly the most perfect example of celebrating the individual effort in a team sport there is.

No, if we have representative footy again, it should be State of Origin or nothing. Yes, there’ll be some difficulties in organising it and it may be that not every state plays every year. We may have to have a rotation system. But it will be our system, not some half-baked copy of the NBA

They don’t have a father/son rule in the NBA either. Is anyone seriously suggesting that we should get rid of that? Of course not, it’s a unique and magnificent part of our game. Indeed, there’s many fans of the NBA, sick and tired of a culture where players seem to have no real loyalty to a team, moving at the drop of a hat – and of course teams who display exactly the same attitude to players – who would like to see some of that continuity and romance that the father/son rule can bring.

So sure, let the players watch all the NBA they want and let’s be open to continuing to bringing in innovations from that sport that can benefit ours. But let’s not ape them unquestioningly. Let’s protect and celebrate what is great about our game.

Even if it leads to some angry Tweets from the players.

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