NRL fans demand State of Origin change after 'awful' Manly and Rabbitohs drama in 75-year first

The spectacle between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Rabbitohs did not please NRL fans.

Fans have once again urged the NRL to have a rethink of the State of Origin schedule after the absence of Latrell Mitchell and Daly Cherry-Evans prompted a lacklustre spectacle from the Rabbitohs and Manly. Cody Walker and the Rabbitohs headed into the clash against Manly as heavy favourites with the visitors missing 13 players due to injury and Origin selection.

And it showed early with Richie Kennar and Jye Gray slicing through the Manly defensive line with ease in the first-half. However, the action felt like it came to a halt as players battled in the conditions as Sydney was pelted with rain.

Fans have once again urged the NRL to have a rethink of the State of Origin schedule after the absence of Latrell Mitchell (pictured right) and stars hurt the Rabbitohs-Manly spectacle.
Fans have once again urged the NRL to have a rethink of the State of Origin schedule after the absence of Latrell Mitchell (pictured right) and stars hurt the Rabbitohs-Manly spectacle.

And for nearly 65 minutes the game slowed with Manly missing the skill and guidance of Maroons halfback Cherry-Evans. Haumole Olakau'atu's power running game was missed, while Jake Trbojevic's brutal defence and energy in the line was absent on Saturday night.

Luke Brooks did his best to guide his team around the park, but Manly were bereft of ideas. And while South Sydney defended their line to aplomb on numerous occasions, Manly's attack was disjointed.

Latrell Mitchell's ability to create a break from nothing was badly missed in the wet for the green and red. The energy Cameron Murray provides when making space for his teammates was evident as Walker tried to overplay his hand in the rain. And after a dire 65 minutes of footy, Keaon Koloamatangi finally pounced into action to chase down a grubber to score to end the clash. And in the end, the Rabbitohs held Manly scoreless against them for the first time in 75 years.

Immediately fans turned on the spectacle with the rain only adding to the dire performances from both teams in tough conditions. While the players gave it their all, the argument for many years is the NRL struggles with depth when the State of Origin fixtures come around and 36 players miss club footy for representative footy.

Jye Gray celebrates with Michael Chee Kam and Cody Walker.
Jye Gray (pictured middle) scored one of three tries against Manly as the both teams missed State of Origin representatives.

Adding injuries on top of representative footy, and Manly coach Seibold was struggling to field a competitive team. Seibold was stoic after the game and refused to blame the fixtures favouring different teams on when they receive a bye round, but he did admit it was a tough time for the Sea Eagles.

"Ideally it would make sense to have Origin by itself, but it's not going to happen," Seibold said after the match. "Some draws you get a good card there with a bye, but I'm not going to whinge about that.

"I thought we had a good enough team to get a result, but they were just a bit classy. We just had so many players playing all over the place. Cohesion was always going to be down."

Tolutau Koula dejected.
Tolutau Koula (pictured) and Manly failed to score against the Rabbitohs with the team missing a number of players due to State of Origin.

While Rabbitohs fans were thrilled with the win as they look to make history and reach the top eight, neutral viewers were far from convinced. Fans urged the Australian Rugby League to push for a standalone State of Origin period so the number of representative players missing does not impact the quality of the competition. This has been a worry for many years with the quality on show either side of Origin games often a huge talking point for fans.

For the Rabbitohs it marks four wins in a row for new interim coach Ben Hornby. After a tumultuous week for veteran Damien Cook, having announced he is leaving the club to join the Dragons, Hornby was full of praise for the No.9.

"He (Cook) was massive tonight," Hornby said. "He went back on with eight minutes to go, with the game still in the balance. He cleaned up everything in defence and then went downfield and set up the try.

"He put the week aside ... No one should be surprised, he has been a great player and has been for a long time." Souths were last on the ladder only a month ago. And they are looking to become the first team to make the top eight from that position since Brisbane went from 17th to eighth in 1999. However, they will most likely need to win eight of their last 10 games to do so. Manly are now in 11th position and are also facing a tough battle to make the top eight.