IT'S that time of year again ... when AFL fans can only dream of what was and what could be when it comes to their sport's own State of Origin battles.
They remember Tony Lockett and Jason Dunstall (even though he's a Queenslander), teaming up for Victoria to thrash South Australia in 1989 ... John Longmire leading New South Wales to a shock win over the Big V in 1990 ... Ted Whitten inspiring the Vics against the Croweaters just before his death in 1995 ... and the awful jumper worn by The Allies in the late-'90s.
They imagine Lance Franklin combining with Josh Kennedy in the forwardline for West Australia, or Gary Ablett teaming with Scott Pendlebury, Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield in a Victorian midfield.
Even though it was the powers-that-be behind the old VFL and WAFL that initiated the 'Origin' concept back in 1977, it is rugby league that has run with it and made it such an unbelievable success.
With their own Origin put into 'recess' by the AFL in 1999 - apart from a one-off Victoria v Dream Team in 2008 - current players have backed its return, with a survey of 80 last year voting unanimously for it to be put back on the calendar,
Ablett, whose father teamed with Lockett in that emotion-charged match in '95, said last month he and fellow stars such as Pendlebury had been involved with the AFL Players Association in putting a proposal together to have Origin re-introduced, possibly in 2016.
But, don't count on it. The players may be willing to put their hand up, but you can be sure their club coaches will have their medicos trying to find any niggling little injury that will sideline them.
And then there's the scheduling headaches the AFL would get - do you have it at the start, middle or end of the year?
The league seems content with the post-season International Rules series against Ireland, that few are interested in, to fill its rep gap, anyway.
Even if Origin was to return, chances are we won't ever see Queensland and New South Wales clashing again, like they did in 1992 ... in front of a 'whopping' 7000 fans at the SCG.
But, it's always an interesting seeing how the two teams would stack up (based on who would be fit to play this month).
The respective attacks pack some real scoring power.
The Maroons, maybe a little top-heavy, possess Nick Riewoldt and Jesse White across half forward and Charlie Dixon and Kurt Tippett deep. The Blues, with a more balanced look, have Tom Hawkins and Taylor Walker as marking targets and Luke Breust and Ben McGlynn crumbing.
NSW, though, has a clear edge in the midfield with Kieren Jack, Jarrad McVeigh, Daniel Cross and Lenny Hayes - one capable of setting up a win.
Sadly we'll never know.
AFL STATE OF ORIGIN
BACKS: L Spurr (FRE) D Merrett (BL) L Keeffe (COL). R Bail (MEL) R Thompson (GC) J Harbrow (GC)
MIDS: J Thomas (COL) D Armitage (SK) C Dempsey (ESS). D Hale (HAW) D Beams (COL) A Raines (BL)
FORWARDS: T Bell (CAR) N Riewoldt (SK) (Capt) J White (COL). C Dixon (GC) K Tippett (SK) D Zorko (BL)
INT: C Cameron (GC), R Petterd (RIC) C Beams (BL), Z Smith (GC)
NEW SOUTH WALES
BACKS: J Bruce (SK) S Rowe (CARL) D Rampe (SS). M Suckling (HAW)
L R-Thompson (SS) T Duryea (HAW).
MIDS: I Smith (HAW) L Hayes (SK)
J McVeigh (SS) (Capt). H Mcintosh (GEE) D Cross (MELB) K Jack (SS)
FORWARDS: C Bird (SS) T Walker (AD) B McGlynn (SS). L Breust (HAW) T Hawkins (GEE) A Schneider (SK).
INT: W Langford (HAW) B Jack (SS)
D Terlich (MEL) D Addison (GWS).
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