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What the hell is the State of Origin?

Australia is glued to their TVs this morning for one of the biggest events in their sporting calender.

The Melbourne Cricket Ground.
The Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Image: PA

IT SURPRISES MANY people when they hear that there are barely over 2o million people living in Australia.

So when you hear that about one in every six of those will be glued to their TV this morning morning for one event, you have to ask why?

The hurling All-Ireland final for the last couple of years has  had about one in five (according to new census figures) of the population watching, but that is a historic and cultural, as well as sports event.

So what is it that will draw this many people to their TV’s down under? The deciding match in rubgy league’s State of Origin series between Queensland and New South Wales.

Although not even 30 years old as an event, it has captured the imagination of the Aussie public, and more importantly the players, and sees the Maroons of Queensland and Blues of New South Wales battle it out (literally)  over a three-match series to lift the lazily named State of O trophy.

The State of Origin is unique as sporting events go – they took the idea of America’s All-Star games, however the players actually care and have made the series work. In many cases clubmates actually batter each other, while wearing opposing state jerseys. there have been a few interesting fall outs over the years due to these games.

Queensland currently hold the upper hand with 17 victories and are on a five year winning streak.  There is usually at least three mass brawls per series, just to keep the VB and Carlton enfused sports fans happy.

  • Sky Sports are showing the action this morning.

This is how the decider was set up

The Aussies are sports mad and some of their sporting showpieces are famous around the world. Here’s a glimpse of some other unique sporting traditions down under.

2. AFL Grand Final

An event as unique to Australia as All-Ireland Sundays to Ireland, the Grand Final usually takes place on the last Saturday of September. With 100,000 fans packed into Melbourne’s iconic cricket ground – the MCG – and with the famous parade through the streets of Melbourne, it makes for one memorable public holiday in the sun, fuelled obviously by Australia’s finest brews.

Check out the atmosphere of last year’s, exceptionally rare final between Collinwood and St Kilda

3. St Stephen’s Day Cricket at the MCG

While we are at the MCG, we may as well discuss the sport for which the stadium was originally built – cricket.

Each summer (winter here) Australia host at least one if not two of the other test playing cricket nations from around the world. And while the other test grounds move around the calendar, the MCG always hosts a test on St Stephen’s Day.

Granted they prefer the once every four years Ashes match against the old conqueror England, for which they can expect up to 90,000 VB or Carlton loaded lads. But the tradition has grown so much, that crowds of 65 – 70,000 would be expected for Sri Lanka, India etc, each St Stephen’s Day.

Check out Shane Warne taking his 700th test wicket – of against all teams, the English in the 2006 Ashes. What a crowd for a cricket match.

4. Melbourne Cup

Few come which as much global prestige as the Melbourne Cup however, where each November 120,000 VB or Carlton fueled lads and ladies pack the stands at  Flemington to watch a sport, that for most of the rest of the year, they have no interest in.

On that day the organisers and the crowd make it feel like the most important sporting event in the world and have christened the Melbourne Cup, ‘the race that stops a nation’.

Despite despotic quarantine laws, we have had a winner or two. Well Dermot Weld has.

Weld’s second winner in the race after Vintage Crop in 1993 was Media Puzzle in 2002, a very emotional victory in Australia. He was saddled by Damian Oliver, who the previous week lost his brother in a car accident.

5. Bathurst 1000

Neither as glamorous as Monaco, nor exciting as Le Mans, but it has something uniquely Australian. Some 200,000 flock to the Mount Panorama  Circuit, about 200 kilometers west of Sydney for a weekend in October.

On offer is basically Nascar with corners, as all the Holdens and Ford Falcons you can muster battle it out to be first to travel 1000 kilometres. Hence the name. Check out the highlights of the 2010 event.

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