Coach's Box: Fans can handle a break
We have to have rep footy. Apart from recognising our best players, our rep season sets us apart from the AFL.
They can't replicate our Test matches and State of Origin even though it interrupts the Premiership season, so we have to find a way to make it fit.
I strongly believe the answer is simple. If you want to play the grand final on the October long weekend, then just start the season one week earlier and have one "footy-free" weekend in the Telstra Premiership season ... a weekend where there are no Premiership games, just rep football.
You could play the Test on a Sunday afternoon and the City-Country on a Saturday afternoon. You could even try something in Queensland at the same time with North Queensland versus South Queensland - they would probably baulk at it, but it creates an opportunity for players to experience rep football who may not get the chance to play Origin.
When you negotiate the TV rights for the season you go in with a plan for one weekend free of Premiership footy.
They do it in the UK for soccer when England plays an international - and there is no bigger stage for an audience than that - so it has been done.
TV is not going to walk away from us just because we have one weekend in the season without a Premiership match; and nor are the fans. They will still be there.
Realistically we are doing a disservice to the players and the fans by expecting them to back-up after a rep game for club football on the same weekend.
Some guys can back-up well and others won't be anywhere near their best. The quality of the game will be compromised for the fans and TV audience if players are battered when they back up, not to mention what it is like for the players.
With rugby league being full-time now we have created a few monsters - players are a hell of a lot fitter and stronger. It is certainly not as violent as it used to be, but it is more physical and they are racking up big numbers in tackles. In the old days there would be around 110-120 tackles per game; now it is in the high 200s-low 300s so there are more collisions and more people involved in the collisions.
So realistically, one game per week is enough for that one body. Twice in a weekend is pretty hard to take.
If player welfare is the key concern, making the Test a stand-alone event (without any Telstra Premiership matches also trying to compete for media coverage) seems the obvious answer.
Consideration could also be given to moving Origin to a Monday night so players have two extra days to recover before the weekend of club matches.
I am not across what the reasons are for it being a Wednesday, but if we are worried about the health and wellbeing of our players first and foremost, why not trial it.
Will it still be a high rating TV show on a Monday night? Will fans still go because it is a Monday? YES ... because everyone loves Origin!