Stand-alone Origin splits opinion

When the Australian Rugby League Commission looks at the future of split rounds, its members are best advised to ignore the weekend just passed.

One of the ARLC’s big tasks is to decide whether to play State of Origin games on stand-alone weekends, meaning clubs no longer have byes during the interstate series.

To decide this, the Commission will want a firm view on whether the NRL competition loses momentum during the representative season. Lost momentum leads to many other things, which in turn lead to lost money though smaller gates, less media coverage and lower TV ratings.

But looking at round 11 will only confuse them.

North Queensland versus Penrith was an argument in the affirmative for abolishing split rounds.

The crowd was 11,648 (not 7000 as reported) but without Johnathan Thurston, Matt Scott, Brent Tate and Luke Lewis, there’s no doubt the occasion suffered despite the sprightly attack showed by both sides and the close scoreline.

Then there was Tariq Sims finding out he was in the NSW squad before kick-off, only to be placed on report and then break his leg. The messiness surrounding 18th and 19th men for Origin – how many, when they are named and when they join camp – currently creates problems for the Blues and Maroons, the players and their clubs.

This game then, would be a black mark against the name of split rounds.

But the previous evening’s Wests Tigers-Warriors game at Leichhardt Oval – watched by this correspondent from the hill with a beer in hand (until they ran out of the amber stuff in the second half) – seemed completely unaffected by events south of the border.

Sure, Robbie Farah was missing, but the joint venture side still won and the number of Warriors fans in the 16,406 crowd suggests that club and the NRL could do more to court the Kiwi expat market every second week.

Likewise, Melbourne-type weather rather than upcoming events there probably did more to dampen enthusiasm at WIN Jubilee yesterday, where South Sydney scored a 19-18 golden point win over St George Illawarra before 14,894.

It’s hard to imagine this being a more satisfying afternoon’s entertainment with Origin players on deck.

Asked if he felt any pressure to fill the void left by Dave Taylor and Greg Inglis, Rabbitohs captain Sam Burgess – whose determined first-half try got his side back on track – said: “(No-one) necessarily thought someone has to step up.

“Everyone just had to do their jobs ... in the second half everyone started doing their jobs the way they should be.”

Across the harbour, the ‘looseness’ of Origin protocols helped Manly’s 18-10 win over Sydney Roosters before 12,633 people stay just above the Origin waterline.

Sea Eagle Anthony Watmough was overlooked by NSW, then turned down the chance to be an emergency reserve because of injury, but was still well enough to star in Manly’s win.

Without his star power, this game may have also helped the argument for abolishing split rounds.

Everyone is talking about State Of Origin becoming a bigger behemoth when and if it is sold to broadcasters as a separate property.

But if it is on a different TV channel to club games, it is hard to see networks who have shelled out enormous amounts for Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday football tolerating the NRL competition kowtowing to Origin the way it does now.

Which television network do you know that would happily let its stars not show up to work so they can keep themselves fresh to appear on another channel?

Follow Steve Mascord on Twitter: @Therealsteavis

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