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The Battle of the North: State of Origin returns

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Sport this week shows is footy focused with both the women and the men getting amongst it.

Our footballing women from the Women’s AFL in Victoria took to the biggest stage of all – the MCG – while in the northern states rugby league in the form of the bruising State of Origin contest loads up for another year.

The female exponents of the AFL play in the women’s Victorian Football League (VFL) and twice each year the AFL stages an exhibition match for these women to show their skills at the headquarters of Aussie Rules — the Melbourne Cricket Ground, or "the G" as it is sometimes known.

Two teams are selected from the ranks of the various top flight club teams, with one team playing in the colours of the Melbourne Demons and the other wearing the red, white and blue of the Western Bulldogs. Since players from the same local club may end up of different sides in the exhibition match – Melbourne Uni provided three players for the Demons and three for the Dogs for instance – the support for the teams wasn’t the traditional two sets of mad fans screaming for their team to do near murder to win. Instead, it was a more generalised support for the game of women’s football itself to do well.

If this was, indeed, the goal of the supporters, then it was achieved and then some. The skills were good, the fitness levels high and the tackles were wince-inducing. The Dogs took the lead early in the first quarter via a "wobbler" that inched over the line from the boot of Darcy Vescio and it was game on. The match continued tight and hard fought with long periods of desperate defence from both teams, seeing goals hard to come by.

Melbourne won the day in the end 4.13 (37) to the Dogs 4.5 (29), however the scores were within a straight kick well into the dying stages, when Melbourne’s Kira Phillips snapped a late goal to seal it for the Demons. Melbourne’s Kara Donnellan was voted best on ground, while Eastern Devils co-captain Meg Hutchins was best for the Bulldogs.

It was a terrific day out for the women footballers and, all in all, a great advertisement for the code. A return leg between the two teams will be played in August with, no doubt, the Dogs out for… well, not revenge, but certainly with victory in their sights.

So, moving further along in the world of footy, the northern rugby states will be convulsed this week when that festival of biffo, the State of Origin rugby league flys off the handle in Sydney on Wednesday.

Queensland have been dominant recently, with a long run of seven series’ wins, but last year the NSW Blues finally got over the line to reclaim the title.

Queensland’s dominance inspired a lot of leg pulling at the expense of those of us here in my home state, NSW; I must admit that I found it hard to watch over those years seeing my team being regularly put to the sword.

On those lines, a gardening client, Eric, told me this joke.

A Queenslander and his mate from NSW are watching the State of Origin and the full time siren sounds, with Queensland winning, again. The Queenslanders dog jumps up and does a full somersault and lies down again.

The man from NSW says: “Why did your dog do that?”

The Queenslander replies: “He does that every time Queensland win the Origin series”.

The NSW supporter then asks: “What does he do when NSW wins?”

To which the Queenslander replies: “I don’t know. He's only six years old."

So we’ll have enough of this ribbing thanks, Queenslanders, the game is afoot once again.

The Queensland team (coached by the great Mal Meninga) is: 1. Billy Slater, 2. Darius Boyd, 3. Greg Inglis, 4. Justin Hodges, 5. Will Chambers, 6. Johnathon Thurston, 7. Cooper Cronk, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Cameron Smith (c), 10. Nate Myles, 11. Aidan Guerra, 12. Sam Thaiday, 13. Corey Parker.

Interchange: 14. Michael Morgan, 15. Josh McGuire, 16. Matt Gillett, 17. Jacob Lillyman 18. Dylan Napa.

NSW are coached by another great, who played plenty of time next to Meninga at Canberra, Laurie Daley. Daley was near knighted for pulling off last year’s series win and so those of us south of the Tweed are pinning our hopes on his leadership skills again.

Daley's team is: 1. Josh Dugan, 2. Daniel Tupou, 3. Josh Morris, 4. Michael Jennings, 5. Will Hopoate, 6. Mitchell Pearce, 7. Trent Hodkinson, 8. James Tamou, 9. Robbie Farah (c), 10. Aaron Woods, 11. Beau Scott, 12. Ryan Hoffman, 13. Josh Jackson.

Interchange: 14. Trent Merrin, 15. Boyd Cordner 16. David Klemmer, 17. Andrew Fifita.

I won’t try to pick the winner here, as it is well known that my sports tipping is less than optimal. However, you can rest assured that things will tight and hard fought.

To my most eternal disappointment, Roy and H.G. will not be commentating anywhere on radio. This is such a shame, as their outstanding humour will be sorely missed. I can assure you that for those long seven years when Queensland were winning, while HG and Roy were broadcasting, at least we in NSW got some laughs out of it.

Lachlan Barker blogs at cyclonecharlie88.blogspot.com.au. You can follow him on Twitter @cyclonecharlie8.

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