1907-1979: Pre-Origins

It was 1908 and the new, 13-man game was gaining traction across the Eastern Seaboard of Australia. With the formation of the NSW Rugby Football League and a NSW tour of New Zealand the previous year, the state's first Rugby League premiership commenced in April 1908 and calls soon came for an interstate contest to promote the new code.

While Queensland's Rugby League competition had yet to commence, it was hoped the existing rivalry between the states in rugby union would be replicated in the breakaway code; instead, a NSW thrashing followed, indicating the disparity between the NSW and Queensland-based players. It was an easy 43-0 victory in the first interstate clash, with local media unimpressed.

There can be no doubt the NSW men are improving a good deal... They cannot be blamed for the farce, for it was nothing else... The play needs no detailed description as it was simply a practice match for NSW, and certainly did not advantageously advertise the new game.

Unknown authorSydney Morning Herald, 13 July 1908

A closer 12-3 result followed in the second match a week later, but NSW would dominate Queensland for decades to come. NSW, who also played England, New Zealand and even Australian sides in coming years, remained undefeated against Queensland until 1922, when their northern rivals went through a golden period of just one loss out of the next 12 matches.

The NSW Firsts played eight games in 1910, including the first interstate series to be played in Queensland. Winger Albert Broomham scored six tries across the three matches, while Dally Messenger was captain.
The NSW Firsts played eight games in 1910, including the first interstate series to be played in Queensland. Winger Albert Broomham scored six tries across the three matches, while Dally Messenger was captain. ©Melba Studios

Overall, however, the side then nicknamed the Blues had relatively consistent success over the Maroons and from 1908-1956, won 75 per cent of the games played. From there, with the growing financial power and increasing wages of the NSWRFL premiership, NSW's stranglehold over Queensland strengthened even further and they lost just 12 of the next 84 games until 1981.

A collection of images detailing the Kiwis' tour of Australia, which included four matches against NSW. The Blues won all four matches, played at the SCG and RAS Showground. Queensland’s Bill Callinan gets past NSW winger Ron Roberts in an interstate clash in 1949, which NSW won 40-12. 
 A collection of images detailing the Kiwis' tour of Australia, which included four matches against NSW. The Blues won all four matches, played at the SCG and RAS Showground. Image: Melba Studios. Queensland's Bill Callinan gets past NSW winger Ron Roberts in an interstate clash in 1949, which NSW won 40-12. Image: Edmond Scott.

By the late 1970s, interstate clashes in Australia held diminishing relevance and the one-sided affairs warranted the rejuvenation of the concept, indicated by the NSWRFL's decision not to host either match played in 1977.

It was soon after this series that Jack Reardon, former Queensland captain and later a journalist, first suggested a change to eligibility criteria for interstate matches. He sparked the State of Origin debate, saying the QRL should have access to NSW-based players who had originated north of the border – which was ironic, given Reardon originally came from the Northern NSW town of Lismore and would not have been eligible for Queensland had he still been playing.

After some convincing, the plan was eventually endorsed by QRL Chairman and Queensland Senator Ron Macauliffe, who put it to his NSWRL counterpart Kevin Humphries ahead of the scheduled 1980 interstate series.