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State of Origin almanac a labour of love

Posted: 8am 03 Nov 2020

Margate’s Liam Hauser sat through 40 years of recorded State of Origin games as research for his latest book, State of Origin 40 Years.

It was a labour of love for the avid rugby league fan and sports journalist, who released the first edition of the book, State of Origin 30 Years in 2010 and the revised edition in 2015.

Hauser started the original as a Year 12 student at Grace Lutheran College in 1999 and concedes that like Origin itself, his writing as changed more than a little over the years.

He describes State of Origin 40 Years as a complete overhaul of the 30 and 35 year volumes, with a fresh layout and more insightful commentary.

“I decided I would watch every game in full, in chronological order,” Hauser says.

“It’s interesting watching it in chronological order, seeing how it (Origin as a series) develops.

“The thing is, every game takes on a course of its own, but at the same time there are recurring themes.”

Celebrated fixture

From its infancy in 1980 and 1981 when only one game was played each year, Hauser says Origin has evolved to become a celebrated fixture on the League calendar.

“It started before the game was fully professional and the play was very scraggly, and the scrums were a lot different – and there’s been rule changes.
“The play was not as quick as today and the players were not as athletic – it’s a huge difference.”

Series develops

Hauser says it was fascinating to see how the series developed year by year and to be reminded of Queensland embracing Origin because it gave them the chance to call on their own players rather than having NSW pick up the state’s homegrown talent under the previous `state of residence’ rules.

“Because it was state against state and mate against mate, it was a case of the best against the best – that in itself took on a culture of its own.”

Homegrown connections

With so many State of Origin identities having connections to the Moreton Bay Region, Hauser says it’s only natural he’s absorbed by the topic.

“(There’s) Petero Civoniceva, Mark Murray and Clinton O’Brien.

“And of course there’s plenty of former Redcliffe players who’ve played State of Origin, including Arthur Beetson, Chris Close, Michael Crocker, Dane Carlaw, Bryan Niebling, John Ribot, Greg Conescu, Mitch Brennan, Wally Fullerton Smith, David Shillington, Brent Tate and Gavin Cooper.

“Also, current Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans originated in Redcliffe.”

Having studied the evolution of Origin in such detail, Hauser is keen to see how the change of routine from a mid-season event to an end of year series alters the game.

Change of routine

“A lot of people who are quite invested in their clubs don’t approve of how State of Origin interrupts the season, but I prefer the middle of the year when the season is in full swing.

“At this time of year, players are carrying niggling injuries, so it will be interesting.”

Hauser nominates the 1995 series as his favourite, with NSW entering the competition off the back of three series wins in a row and Queensland not rated a chance because the team was depleted due to many players being committed to Super League.

“The odds were absolutely prohibitive…for Queensland to win three games to none (was remarkable).”

And his nominee for best player? Hauser says it’s Cameron Smith, hands down.

“How much he can govern a game of football and think ahead shows how good he is.”

Hundreds of photos

State of Origin 40 Years contains more than 300 photos and a detailed match report of every State of Origin match, from 1980 to 2019.

Full team lists and scoreboards from each game are also included, as well as comprehensive lists of player-of-the-match winners, coaches, crowd numbers, referees and results.

Find more local sport here.

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