Carl Ablett’s View from the Pitch: County of Origin concept has got to be worth another look

Leeds Rhinos stars Keith Senior and Iestyn Harris with their respective shirts in preparation for the Yorkshire v Lancashire clash in 2001.
Leeds Rhinos stars Keith Senior and Iestyn Harris with their respective shirts in preparation for the Yorkshire v Lancashire clash in 2001.
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IT was the opening State of Origin game between Queensland and New South Wales this week which got me thinking again about what it would be like to see the whole Yorkshire v Lancashire concept re-visited once more.

There’s a lot to like about what they do in Australia; the intensity of that three-game Origin series, the rivalry between the two states, all the build-up that is created … it’s pretty serious stuff.

But that’s what you want to watch and you always know you will get a decent match.

When you look at our competition, I feel we are getting more of that and we are seeing more intense games in Super League.

Any side can beat anyone at the minute but obviously Origin is another level to anything we have here and it is something to aspire to.

If we did start up the county concept over here again – 2003 was the last time there was a War of the Roses – and you looked at what sides we’d get with Yorkshire and Lancashire there would definitely be two great teams on show.

You’d struggle to name them all and get them all in, considering the players who would be vying for spots.

From a couple of lads I’ve spoken to at Leeds, the players would be happy to be a part of it all again.

There’s certainly a bit of rivalry between Yorkshire and Lancashire crossing that border. Players would welcome that and it’d be great if we can try and grow it.

There’s a lot of things that need to happen, though, to get to that stage.

People already talk about the number of games we play being too many and it’d take a lot of negotiation from the league (RFL) and the clubs to see it materialise. The way it is, we just can’t add another game to the calendar, but it is something I’d like to see re-introduced.

The fans would get behind it and want to watch it as there’d be two great squads available.

Aside from your England players – all the familiar names – on current form you could have some really exciting talents.

There’d be people like Luke Gale from Cas, Warrington’s Ben Currie, Hull’s Jamie Shaul and Scott Taylor, maybe Tom Johnstone from Wakefield, Jonny Lomax over at Saints and Wigan’s Dom Manfredi.

The list goes on.

You’d have to let it grow, though.

In the past, some ideas to improve the national side’s strength have been started up again and then soon forgotten.

For example, I was involved with a couple of the Exiles games when playing for England against Super League’s best overseas stars.

They were great experiences but it didn’t last long.

You could understand that. There were some issues there with regards to the availability of players and they struggled with getting everyone together at times.

Also, the number of high-quality NRL players coming over here to Super League is dwindling. That, of course, is good for our game – it means we’re getting more English players playing in Super League which, in turn, is great for the national side.

There’s some great young kids around at the moment but you can see why it’d get more difficult to get a really good Exiles side together to really test England.

But Yorkshire v Lancashire I do like. For any young player, it’d certainly be an experience with benefits to go into such a training camp.

Going into a new environment like that would perhaps help them grow as a player and, for younger players, they might need that step up to aid their advancement into the England squad.

Taking them out of their comfort zone is important, and then allowing them to work with different coaches and different players, as they would with Yorkshire and Lancashire, is key.

As for Origin, Queensland won the opener 6-4 but I’ve always been a Blues fan and liked New South Wales.

Watching it when I was growing up they had ‘Joey’ Johns and Danny Buderus, players of that ilk, Brad Fittler before as well.

At Leeds, too, I don’t think we have any Maroons; big Keith (Galloway), Mitch Achurch, Garbutt, Cuthbo … they’re all New South Wales men.

It’d be great to see people eventually talk the same way about Yorkshire v Lancashire.