State Of Origin was one of the highlights of the footy season before it died a slow death in the late 90s.

But if scientists are on track to bring the woolly mammoth back from extinction, as they claim they are, then the AFL should be able to do the same with rep footy.

And the best part is that it will be a lot easier to resurrect State Of Origin than it will the ancient herbivore.

In fact, the AFL have the perfect blueprint to usher it back in, although it continues to opt against implementing it.

The key factor which brought about State Of Origin's demise at the turn of the century was the reluctance of clubs to allow their star players to participate, and the reluctance of those players themselves, for fear of sustaining injury.

State Of Origin was usually played smack bang in the middle of the season, but as the league's shift from semi-pro to professionalism hastened dramatically throughout the 90s, the appetite for what was once the pinnacle of rep footy waned considerably.

However, there is a simple solution to this problem - move State Of Origin to the pre-season.

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In this scenario the injury excuse is no longer a factor.

All players need to have one or two hitouts to dust off the cobwebs before the season proper anyway, so why not make one of those a star-studded primetime extravaganza featuring the best of the best playing with, and against, each other?

This proposal was vindicated in 2020 when Victoria took on the All-Stars in late February in a rare one-off rep match to raise money for those impacted by that summer's devastating bushfires.

The match took place at Marvel Stadium and was attended by 51,052 people. It was a blockbuster event.

Clearly there is a huge appetite for State Of Origin amongst the public, as was proven in the previous rep game in 2008 when Victoria played the ‘Dream Team' in a Hall of Fame tribute match as part of footy's 150th anniversary celebrations – a game that was attended by almost 70,000 people at the MCG.

Last time I checked, the risk of injury would be precisely the same in a State Of Origin game as it would be in a practice match attended by 5000 people at Princes Park.

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A State Of Origin match, or even a weekend carnival featuring all states, would be a spectacular way to kick off the season.

Compare that prospect to what we were just served up late last week when most clubs participated in practice matches that, in most cases, lasted 6-8 periods, allowed VFL-listed players to join in, and took place on smaller suburban grounds.

No doubt, there is definitely a place for “match simulation” in the pre-season, as well as a full round of regulation practice matches, as we will be treated to this coming weekend.

But State Of Origin footy being staged in the last, or second-last, weekend before Round 1 would cap off the off-season perfectly and ramp up the excitement for the home-and-away season considerably.

And fears of the game devolving into a tame skills exhibition, akin to the NBA All-Star snooze fest which took place last week, are misplaced because the players won't want to head into the new season ‘cold'.

It goes without saying that club medical teams are fastidious when it comes to monitoring the GPS workloads of their players, so they would obviously be allowed to have input in the management of their players during the game.

Some of football's most iconic moments have occurred during State Of Origin games.

Who could forget Teddy Whitten's final lap of the MCG in 1995? Or the 1994 thriller at Football Park which South Australia won by two points against Victoria? Or when over 91,000 people packed the MCG in 1989 to watch Tony Lockett and Jason Dunstall play in the same Victorian team which pulverised South Australia?

In fact, the concept was so good that rugby league pinched it in the early 80s and did what Aussie Rules couldn't, by turning it into the biggest event on their calendar outside of the NRL Grand Final.

It would be foolhardy to expect the AFL's version of State Of Origin to supersede rugby league's in popularity, but we keep hearing that AFL players love the idea.

And who could blame them? It's not every day you get to call the best players in the competition your teammates.

So what is stopping them from agreeing to an annual carnival in the pre-season?

Players of previous generations rate state selection, and playing in state games, as some of the biggest highlights of their careers.

It's about time the current crop got to experience that feeling for themselves on a regular basis.