This Sunday Mudgee hosts the final NSW City v NSW Country Origin rugby league game.
Starting in 1928, the game has devolved from a genuine State of Origin trail to a glorified practice match.
Now the game attracts more attention for who’s not playing, rather than who is.
Like Monday night football (which ended last year), the City v Country game is probably not going to be missed.
While it may be great for bush footy, the game isn’t necessary as an Origin trial anymore. With Laurie Daley already picking a “shortlist” of 52 players, most fans can work out who’s going to play based on previous Origin performances and NRL form.
Much like pre-season trials, the Auckland Nines and Indigenous All Stars game, coaches are loathe to risk injury to star players for a one-off game. Ricky Stuart (Canberra) and Des Hasler (Canterbury) have banned their players from City v Country selection, though Paul Gallen’s inclusion as City captain has saved some face.
The City v Country game is part of the successful representative round, with the Trans-Tasman Test in Canberra on Friday night and a Pacific triple-header at Campbelltown Stadium (Fiji v Tonga, PNG v Cook Islands, England v Samoa). The Pacific Tests have been a wonderful addition, allowing the large Pacific NRL contingent to represent their nations, while the Trans-Tasman Test has been a mid-season fixture for a long time.
The worst part of the City v Country axing is the impact on country football.
Luckily there is discussion about taking more NRL game to regional areas.
Recently, Penrith have played in Bathurst and Manly have played games in Albury. Playing more NRL games in regional areas (both in NSW and Queensland) is better for the game than the one-off City v Country Origin match. With low crowds in some Sydney stadiums, taking more matches to regional areas would help promote the game.