State of Origin – three words which excite many sports fans.
It’s no secret New South Wales and Queensland don’t like each other and nor are South Australia and Victoria overly fond of one another in a sporting sense.
Interstate rivalry exists in many ways – not just in sport – but it is on the field where this can culminate into a contest for bragging rights, putting would be opponents on the same team to represent their state.
These matches are iconic in Rugby League and are on the wish list of many AFL supporters – but what about football?
The concept has not been tested in Australian football with the only matches between state representative squads being at a junior level.
While a state of origin-like tournament would be difficult and almost pointless in the A-League – given the pool of professional players in each state is limited to the number of A-League teams – this isn’t to say it couldn’t work for the National Premier Leagues.
Oakleigh Cannons midfielder Matthew Foschini believes seeing the best NPL players represent their respective states could generate further excitement for state and local football.
The 28-year-old has been around the NPL for several seasons and says having the opportunity to travel and play against different opposition is one which excites many players.
“It’s always a nice thing and an honour to represent your state at any level and any competition,” he said.
“The more competitions like that at a high level and seeing the best players playing against each other would really propel the state leagues.
“It’s different playing against players from other states because you don’t really know them, if you’re someone like me you’re used to seeing the same faces.
“Travelling interstate, its why the FFA Club is such a lucrative thing for us, you can travel interstate and breaks up the routine in the sense that you’re not playing the same teams all the time.”
State representative sides are nothing new in football – just ask Gary Cole.
The former Heidelberg and Preston forward represented Victoria on several occasions against the likes of West Ham, New York Cosmos and AEK Athens – the latter of whom they defeated 4-0 at Olympic Park.
In contrast to the NRL, when state sides were chosen players only had to be playing in that state – not necessarily born there.
Cole says representing Victoria was an “inclusive time” for football in the state, with the likes of Jimmy Campbell, Geoff Oliver and Yakka Banovic all playing in the one team.
“It was terrific there was a great comradery in the team, it was great in my case because I played at Heidelberg where we had nine Socceroos in the team,” he said.
“We’d normally play two-or-three games a year so we’d get together and train beforehand so it was another team that you got to know.
“We knew we were good and a chance against anyone – there was a time in Australian football when we went through many honourable losses.
“We had a few [for Victoria] like against Franz Beckenbauer’s Cosmos but we beat Norwich and pushed West Ham all the way.
“It was an inclusive time among all players across all Melbourne based clubs and also a great opportunity to come through as a youngster.”
While representative sides are no longer a thing at a senior level – Cole believes it could help in providing NPL players more opportunities.
“If there’s a hunger for it and it’s promoted well, then it couldn’t hurt to try,” he said.
“When I played if Cosmos came to town Olympic Park was sold out but if it was South Australia we might get six-to-seven thousand so it’s all about appetite and marketing.
“If you look at the State of Origin in Rugby it’s passionate and bigger than Texas, whether that can work in football I’m not sure.
“The more opportunity for NPL players the better, we keep talking about the lack of opportunities and no matter who your coach is most of your learning as a player happens on the pitch with more experienced players around you.”
While an NPL state of origin may not attract the biggest of crowds, it would be something to see Stefan Zinni, Liam Boland and Davey Van’t Schip team up for Victoria against Alejandro Sanchez and Christopher Payne for New South Wales.