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Weekend Origin games a must: Hasler
Darren Walton and Melissa Woods
17:50 AEST Wed Aug 1 2012

New-age super coach Des Hasler has weighed into the debate around State of Origin scheduling and insists rugby league's representative showpiece must assume stand-alone weekend status.

The issue has bubbled on the backburner for several seasons now but is on the hot plate after long-time competition leaders Melbourne and fellow top-four aspirants Brisbane and Cronulla endure a nasty bout of post-Origin blues.

The Storm and Broncos, in particular, were battered during the three-game, 10-week Origin series, while the Sharks soldiered on without the services of star duo Todd Carney and Paul Gallen.

All three sides were flying high in the top four entering round 18, the weekend after the Origin decider in Brisbane.

But with key players sidelined the trio have since managed just one win from 11 matches between them.

Despite his Bulldogs rocketing to the top of the ladder as their chief rivals faltered, Hasler said common sense must prevail with State of Origin matches moved from Wednesday nights to the weekend.

Chasing his third premiership in five seasons after guiding Manly to the 2008 and 2011 titles, Hasler said the Origin toll on clubs was a hot topic among the coaches.

"It's probably more the mental side of it, though, than the physical side of it," he said on Wednesday.

"With the new commission coming in, I've seen a couple of ideas flagged.

"I've seen maybe five Thursday night games, which was a huge success, and we've seen Sunday night games.

"So the obvious thing that can stem from that is that Origin would have stand-alone (status).

"If they were to do it that way, they would be able to free up three weekends to have stand-alone Origin football, which I think would help counteract that physicality."

With the competition stretching 26 weeks but clubs receiving only two byes, Hasler said it was too much of an ask for representative players to keep backing up after mid-week Origin encounters.

"Origin, it's a very competitive arena," he said.

"It's probably the most competitive footy and the hardest footy, particularly this year as the odds go up each year.

"So it will be even harder next year as the Maroons go for eight (series wins) in a row. So you can imagine the intensity that's going to be around the games next year.

"And you can see it this year. The last two Origin games - the second and third one - they were just brutal encounters.

"I know they're trying to work it with the byes and stuff, but there's still a number of players having to back up Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It's crazy.

"So I think that's a pretty intelligent format - stand-alone weekends."

Melbourne mentor Craig Bellamy, who coached NSW from 2008-10, says Origin is also taking a toll on fans, with many now hoping their aces aren't even selected because of the damage it can cause.

Bellamy wouldn't lay the entire blame for Melbourne's five successive losses on the gruelling Origin campaign, but said the residue lasted long past the actual three games minus their stars.

"There's a few other teams who've had an Origin hangover and this is probably the worst we've been," he said.

Bellamy has long been an advocate for Origin being staged on stand-alone weekends and said the ARL Commission needed to look at the scheduling before it became a turn-off for fans and clubs.


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