• NSW will continue to adopt a low-key approach to Wednesday night's State of Origin opener. (AAP)Source: AAP
State of Origin is one of the biggest stages in Australian sport and Owen Craigie says the strong representation by Aboriginal players highlights that progress is being made and it will inspire the younger generations.
Owen Craigie

Over the Black Dot
31 May 2017 - 1:11 PM  UPDATED 31 May 2017 - 1:11 PM

Today’s the day and I’m over the moon. I can’t wait for the start of rugby league’s State of Origin tonight. It’ll be a great game - it’ll be all guns blazing I’d say.

I think it will come down to something as simple as whoever holds the ball will win. It’s just so important and I think that whoever holds the ball will eventually win the game.

And when you’re playin state of origin, the last thing you can do is turn the ball over to the opposition. I can’t really pick who’s gonna win it now because they’ve taken the spine out of Queensland. They’ve dropped Billy Slater and they’ve got no Johnathan Thurston, so it’s an open affair I think.

There’s five Aboriginal players in the NSW side and coach Laurie Daley says that’s a record, with Nathan Peats, Andrew Fifita, Wade Graham, Jack Bird and Blake Ferguson all selected to play.

It’s great to see. It just goes to show how many Indigenous players are playing in the NRL and to have them play at the highest level is also great to watch and it’s a shame that Tyrone Peachey and James Roberts are not there. But the guys that are there, I’m quite sure they can do the job.

This is the pinnacle of rugby league. It’s great to win a grand final, but to play at that origin level at a fast, intense, skilful game - it’s every kid’s dream to play Origin cos it’s shown all over the world and it’s marked for the calendar as an annual event, the three Origin games.

And although Queensland’s missing JT and Greg Inglis, they’ve still got a proud Indigenous group with your Sam Thaidays, Dane Gagais and Will Chambers.

All these guys are at the very top and are role models. Anything to inspire our people and to showcase that we’ve got all these Aboriginal players playing in both Origin camps, it just highlights that we are making progress and it will inspire the younger generation coming through.

I suppose what people watching can take out of it is that anything is possible. And to give these kids something to dream about and to achieve.

It’s all about giving them something to dream about and certainly when I was a young boy comin through I always dreamt about playing Origin and there are more Aboriginal players now. Back then all we had was Ricky Walford, if that. But it’s great to show that the kids can now barrack for any team and there’s a handful of Aboriginal players in both sides.

They train two or three times a day and then play on weekends and in the pre-season, they have six weeks off. There’s no other code on the the planet that would be able to do what these guys do.

State of Origin has something for everyone. Even people not that big into rugby league, there’s the excitement because it’s a contact sport. We as human beings, we love the sport of boxing, we love contact sports and there’s no better spectacle than the Origin, if you love anything to do with contact sport.

I know that there’ll be players from all codes watching Origin tonight, that’s why it’s such a special event on the calendar for rugby league players and supporters alike.

There are people saying it’s too much for the players to then play again this weekend in the NRL, but I support it. I know it takes a lot out on their bodies and that, but at the end of the day the boys get paid big dollars now to perform and to make it all happen. I suppose that I’m happy with the way it is at the moment.

We’re always going to be critical of the game, no matter what happens. But that’s just the nature of the beast - we’ll always be critical of the game.

It’s very impressive what these guys do though. There’s no other sport in the world that can do what these guys do to this level.

They train two or three times a day and then play on weekends and in the pre-season, they have six weeks off. There’s no other code on the the planet that would be able to do what these guys do.

Just the physicality of it all and I suppose what certain players can do with their speed, their skill, their footwork, their kicking, their passing – it all adds up and it’s just one of those things that you’re gonna see things that you don’t normally see because of the quality of the world-class players that are playing on this stage.

To hear more from Owen Craigie and for all of your rugby league news, tune in to Over the Black Dot on NITV at 9.30pm each Wednesday, or via the on-demand service.