NRL chief executive Dave Smith says the State of Origin schedule is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future.
Despite growing complaints about State of Origin hijacking the club competition for two months every year, NRL chief executive Dave Smith admits scheduling changes are unlikely.
Smith says history shows that various ideas have been trialled and discussed, and the current model is still the best.
In any event, it would be almost impossible to change the program for next year with plans for Origin games in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney already well advanced.
Coaches Wayne Bennett, Des Hasler, Geoff Toovey and Craig Bellamy have all led calls this year for the game to examine alternatives to the current Origin schedule, given the crippling effect the drawn-out series has on club land – with star players missing, work-loads doubling and crowd numbers dropping.
State of Origin I this year was one of the most physically taxing matches ever seen, and Smith admits player welfare issues surrounding athletes backing-up for club football is a concern which needs to be monitored.
But Smith made it clear the game won’t be doing anything that compromises the quality of the Origin brand, which he described as a sporting “phenomenon”.
The bottom line is Origin is the game’s No.1 asset.
That means fans may have to continue putting up with the standard of the NRL competition plummeting between late May and early July for the foreseeable future.
“(Scheduling alternatives) are always considered, but Origin is a very significant part of the rugby league calendar. It’s a very successful part,” said Smith.
“My biggest consideration would be player welfare and making sure it’s as widely accessible to as many fans nationally as we can possibly make it.
“We have to be conscious of the fact that people have tried lots of different ways and this has proven to be the best one.
“Any season scheduling isn’t something you can change quickly. We’re already planning for next year. We’ve already started to market tickets for Origin I and Origin II next year.
“These are things that need to be thought through and thought through well in advance of any changes you’re going to make.
“It’s about choosing the best option you’ve got, and as we currently stand, this is probably the best option we’ve got.”