Interstate matches in Australian rules football

Interstate matches in Australian rules football

Australian rules football matches between teams representing Australian colonies/states and territories have been held since 1879. For most of the 20th century, the absence of a national club competition and international matches meant that football games between state representative teams were regarded with great importance. Football historian John Devaney has argued that: "some of the state of origin contests which took place during the 1980s constituted arguably the finest expositions of the game ever seen." []


Until 1976, interstate Australian rules football games were played by teams representing the major football leagues or organisations. From 1977 to 1999, players were generally selected under State of Origin selection rules and they were chosen mostly from the Australian Football League (AFL). Since 2000, all matches have been between teams representing the second-tier state or territorial leagues. Players from the AFL no longer take part in interstate matches.

The matches have mostly been held on a stand-alone basis. However, an Australian Football Carnival, a national championship series, held in either one or two cities, took place between 1908 and 1993, usually at three year intervals. Teams which have taken part have included a combined Australian Amateurs team, Australian Capital Territory (ACT), New South Wales (NSW), NSW-ACT, New Zealand (NZ; 1908 carnival only), Northern Territory, Queensland (Qld), Qld-NT, South Australia (SA), Tasmania (Tas), Victoria (Vic), the Victorian Football League (VFL), the Victorian Football Association (VFA) and Western Australia (WA). The Allies, a combined team representing the states and territories other than the three major Australian rules states — South Australia, Victoria and Western Australia — also took part in State of Origin games during the 1990s.

Between 1937 and 1988 the player judged the best at each of these carnivals was awarded the Tassie Medal.

Between 1953 and 1988, the selection of All Australian Teams was based on players' performance during Australian Football Carnivals, and the team was named after each carnival concluded.


Inter-league competition, 1879-1976


As the birthplace of Australian rules, and with advantages of population and finances, Victoria dominated the first hundred years of intercolonial and interstate football. This was the case in the first ever interstate game, held on Tuesday, July 1, 1879, at East Melbourne Cricket Ground. The final score was Victoria (represented by the VFA) 7 goals, 14 points to South Australia 0.3 — a margin of seven goals as points did not count unless both sides scored the same number of goals. The match was attended by more than 10,000 people, a big crowd for a weekday at that time.

The third and fourth teams to commence intercolonial competition were New South Wales and Queensland, playing each other in a two-game series in Brisbane in 1884; the result of the series was a one-all draw. Tasmania played its first game, against Victoria, in 1887. New Zealand entered the competition with a victory over NSW in Sydney, in 1889.


Victoria's long-term dominance briefly faltered in the 1890s, when other Colonies recorded their first ever wins over the VFA: South Australia in Adelaide in 1890 and 1891 and Tasmania in Hobart in 1893 (twice). In 1897, the VFL split from the VFA and the two selected separate representative teams, further weakening Victoria in intercolonial competition, which became interstate competition following Federation of the six British colonies in Australia, in 1901.

Western Australia played its first two interstate games in 1904, including a win over SA in Adelaide.


The VFL's dominance, at least within Victoria, was established by the time an interstate carnival was held for the first time — in Melbourne in 1908 — to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of "Australasian football" (as it was known at the time). The widening gap between the three major footballing States/leagues and the others was shown in the organisation of the competition: the VFL, SA and WA comprised "Section A", and Tasmania, NSW, Queensland and NZ were relegated to "Section B". The VFA did not take part and the carnival was New Zealand's last appearance in representative football. The VFL team went through the competition undefeated.

This impression was reiterated by the 1911 Carnival, in Adelaide, which also set the pattern of a carnival every three years. The VFL lost only one game, against SA. At the Sydney carnival of 1914, the VFL was once again undefeated. Following the onset of World War I, interstate matches then went into a five year hiatus.

tate of Origin, 1977-99

Victoria Australian rules football team ("Big V") 1989 State of Origin guernsey.]
Western Australia Australian rules football team ("Sandgropers") 1995 State of Origin guernsey.]

By the 1970s, VFL clubs were signing up an increasing number of the best players from other states and Victoria dominated state games. West Australians, led by the marketing manager of the Subiaco Football Club, Leon Larkin, began to campaign for players to be selected according to state-of-origin rules. The West Australian Football League (WAFL) negotiated with the VFL for two years before agreement was reached on the format. In the first such game, at Subiaco Oval in Perth, on October 8, 1977, Western Australia defeated Victoria, 23.13 (151) to 8.9 (57), a huge reversal of the results in most previous games. In the words of one football historian:

:"A Western Australian team comprised entirely of home-based players had, on 25 June, taken on a VFL team containing many of the same players who would return to Perth three and a half months later for the state of origin clash. The respective scores of the two matches offered a persuasive argument, if such were needed, of the extent to which the VFL had denuded the WAFL of its elite talent:

:*"On 25 June 1977 VFL 23.16 (154) defeated Western Australia 13.13 (91) - a margin of 63 points":*"On 8 October 1977 Western Australia 23.13 (151) defeated Victoria 8.9 (57) - a margin of 94 points, representing an overall turn around of 157 points"

:"Western Australia's previous biggest winning margin against a Victorian state team had been a mere 38 points in 1948. Almost overnight, an inferiority complex was dismantled: Victoria, it seemed, was not intrinsically superior, only wealthier." []

Games involving each of the other states soon followed. Western Australia and South Australia began to win many of their games against Victoria.

Possibly the largest attendance at a state of origin match was recorded in 1989, when a crowd of 91,960 people attended a game at the Melbourne Cricket Ground between Victoria, featuring greats of the game such as Gary Ablett, Tony Lockett, Jason Dunstall and Terry Daniher, and South Australia, featuring Andrew Jarman, Stephen Kernahan and Craig Bradley. The selection of Dunstall (who won the E.J. Whitten Medal for best Victorian player) and Daniher, who were born in and recruited from Queensland and New South Wales respectively, exemplified the often loose and constantly mutating selection rules applied in state of origin games. This reached farcical levels the following year, when the selectors of a "New South Wales" team (captained by Daniher) were allowed to include any player who had played for Sydney, resulting in the inclusion of players from several states. Later, controversy also surrounded the selection for South Australia of the NSW-born and raised Wayne Carey, after his best-on-ground performances.

However, during the 1990s, following the emergence of a national club competition, the Australian Football League, state of origin games declined in importance, relative to Origin games in the rival code of rugby league. There were an increasing number of withdrawals by AFL players, who were under increasing pressure from their clubs, concerned by the risk of injuries.

No official Australian rules State of Origin matches have been held since 1999 and despite hinting a return of Origin football to the 2008 AFL calendar to celebrate 150 years of Australian football, the Australian Football League have instead programmed an exhibition match in Melbourne between a Victorian side and a composite "All-Stars" team made up from players from the other states.

State of Origin results







* South Australia 11.9 (75) d. Victoria 10.13 (73) (held in Adelaide)

* South Australia 16.13 (109) d. Victoria 14.13 (97) (held in Melbourne)

* South Australia 19.19 (133) d. Victoria 18.12 (120) (held in Adelaide)

* Victoria 12.14 (86) d. South Australia 11.4 (70)
* Western Australia 19.13 (127) d. Victoria 7.9 (51)

* New South Wales 13.8 (86) d. Victoria 10.16 (76) (held in Sydney)
* Tasmania 20.14 (134) d. Victoria 14.17 (101) (held in Hobart)
* Victoria 14.13 (97) d. Western Australia 8.12 (60) (held in Perth) []

1988 (held in Adelaide)

1980 (held in Adelaide)

1979 (held in Perth)
* Tasmania 17.20 (122) def Queensland 13.12 (90)
* Western Australia 23.23 (161) def Tasmania 9.10 (64)
* Victoria 25.30 (180) def South Australia 20.15 (135)
* Queensland 23.13 (151) def Australian Capital Territory 18.12 (120)
* South Australia 22.20 (152) def Tasmania 17.11 (113)
* Western Australia 17.21 (123) def Victoria 16.12 (108)

1977 (held in Perth)
* Western Australia 23.13 (151) def Victoria 8.9 (57)

tate of Origin awards

The best player on the ground during these State of Origin matches was awarded a particular medal.

*Victoria - E. J. Whitten Medal
*Western Australia - Simpson Medal and Graham Moss Medal
*South Australia - Fos Williams Medal
*The Allies - Alex Jesaulenko Medal

E. J. Whitten Legends game

Following the death of Ted Whitten — who is regarded as one of the finest ever players of Australian rules — from prostate cancer in 1995, his son Ted Whitten Jr organised an interstate charity match between teams of retired players, to raise money for research into the disease. The only two teams which have taken part in these games are Victoria and the "All Stars" (similar to the AFL's "Allies"), who represent the rest of Australia. The first E. J. Whitten Legends Game was played at Whitten Oval in 1995, and it has become an annual event. The games have often attracted crowds of over 10,000, and this has resulted in them being moved from Whitten Oval to Optus Oval, Adelaide Oval (South Australia) and the Telstra Dome.

Games between state leagues, 1991-

Games between representative teams of players in the several competitions -- VFL (VFA before 1996), SANFL, WAFL, AFL Queensland, AFL Canberra and AFL Sydney -- still occur, with most leagues usually playing one interstate game each year. Frontline AFL players are generally excluded from these games, although members of AFL rookie lists often play. Tasmania left representative matches off the calendar after 1999, after the statewide league folded and separate North and South leagues were introduced. They re-entered the state league arena in 2007 at Launceston, in addition to the intrastate match between the North and South leagues, AFL Tasmania put together a team to play AFL Queensland. The Northern Territory Football League (now AFL-NT) has opted for challenging AFL or other league clubs just before the end of their season. They haven't played against another league since 1995.

An agreement was reached between the South Australian, Western Australian and Victorian leagues in 2003 following that year's match between the WAFL and the SANFL, in which a three-match rotation system was introduced. This would see each league play each other once every three years which also involved a rotation of hosting rights. Under this agreement, unless alternative competition could be arranged, one of the three participating leagues would not be involved in interstate competition for one season.

tate League awards

The State League Representative matches, like State of Origin, have individual best on ground medals as well.

*VFA/VFL (Victoria) - Frank Johnson Medal
*WAFL (Western Australia)- Simpson Medal
*SANFL (South Australia) - Fos Williams Medal

State League Representative Match Results (1991-)****

2008 - AFL Tribute Match

For the 150th celebrations of Australian Football, the AFL staged a once-off interstate match, the AFL Hall of Fame Tribute Match.

External links

* [, "Interstate Football"]
* [ Convict Creations State of Origin]

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