State of Origin’s 2014 edition has roared into life again and New Zealand’s fascination in it shows no sign of abating. Nor should it; this is sport at its glorious best.
It’s said by some every year that there is no reason for New Zealanders to be interested in it to the level they are because there’s nothing connecting Kiwis with it. So wrong. There’s always a New Zealand link somewhere beneath the surface if not front and centre, as there is again this year. This isn’t an exhaustive list but here goes with some of the New Zealand features:
The obvious ones are three of the players. One is New South Wales front rower James Tamou – Aussie Jim they call him – who was born in Palmerston North; he represented the Junior Kiwis and the New Zealand Maori but turned his back on his country of birth. Same thing with Queensland bench forwards Ben Te’o and Josh Papalii. Auckland-born Te’o was a Hibiscus Coast junior and was a Junior Kiwi in 2005 while Papalii, also born in Auckland, was selected for the Junior Kiwis in 2011.
New South Wales fullback Jarryd Hayne’s father is Manoa Thompson, who lined up in the centres for the original Auckland Warriors in their very first match against Brisbane in 1995 (Warrior #4).
Queensland winger Brent Tate lived in Auckland for three years and made 48 appearances for the Vodafone Warriors (#137); his wife Lani is part-Maori.
New South Wales second rower Ryan Hoffman will make Auckland his home when he joins the Vodafone Warriors on a three-year contract at the end of this season; he lived in Wellington for two years, doing his intermediate schooling there.
Queensland standoff Johnathan Thurston’s father Graham is a New Zealander. Yes, JT could have opted to play for the Kiwis all those years ago.
So next time someone says New Zealand has no direct links with Origin …