NRL’s State of Origin Biff: Controversial but Covertly Adored by Australians

Should we bring back the biff for Origin?

NRL’s State of Origin Biff: Controversial but Covertly Adored by Australians


The intense competition and bitter rivalry between New South Wales and Queensland have given rise to a number of memorable moments, controversial incidents, and of course, biffs, on and off the rugby pitch. And with this season’s State of Origin series heading into its second stage in Brisbane, we look at just what inspired the love affair between Aussies and the classic footy biff.

The biff; the scrap; throwing hands; handbags. Whatever you call it, tempers flaring and passion boiling out onto the rugby pitch will always result in an on-field incident between opposing players.

It’s inevitable when you consider the State of Origin is the biggest game of the year and the dream fixture for any footy player in the NRL. It’s the pinnacle of the sport; the pitch is divided, and battle lines are drawn, as the best players in the country descend onto the field to fight for their state of origin. It simply means more.

WATCH how State of Origin 2023 kicked off with a classic Aussie biff below.

Why do Australians love the on-field biff so much?

The animosity between NSW and QLD in the State of Origin can be traced back to the late 1970s, prior to the establishment of the State of Origin, when players represented their respective regions instead of their states.

The series was eventually reformatted, allowing players to represent their states of origin in an effort to level out the playing field that was being consistently dominated by NSW and then, the intense rivalry took hold. It’s a rivalry that’s defined Aussie footy to transcend Club allegiances – and is still carried by players and fans today.

In recent years the State of Origin has evolved somewhat, shifting away from the famous scraps that have become synonymous with this iconic rugby series. And while the biffs are not condoned, they reflect the passion, competitiveness and raw emotions that characterise the State of Origin rivalry – and Aussies secretly love them.

“There needs to be more of it in the footy, especially in Origin. Bring back the biff.”

Queensland prop, Tom Flegler

The Australian love affair with the on-field fights has become so prevalent in the game, that the biffs themselves have even started to become more famous than some of the fixtures, writing their own dedicated pages in Origin folklore. Classic face-offs such as Brett White vs. Steve Price, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui vs. Payne Haas and of course, Paul Gallen vs. Nate Myles in 2013: the biff that ultimately led to a rule change for automatic sending off for any punches thrown.

Matty John’s character Reg Reagan and his catchphrase “bring back the biff” are a part of footy folklore. Image: Daily Telegraph

Why aren’t players allowed to scrap anymore?

In recent years, there’s been a conscious effort to shift away from the on-field scraps that have become such an intrinsic part of men’s rugby league. The banning of fights during the State of Origin and the regular league can be attributed to a broader effort to promote player safety and ensure a family-friendly environment for fans attending the games. And ultimately, player safety is paramount.

On-field biffs, while once considered a huge part of the appeal of the game, are now viewed as potentially dangerous to players and take away from the footy on display, but many are saying by removing the fighting, you’re actually diminishing an exciting aspect of the sport.

“I was at the game last week when the biff started. There was a louder cry then compared to when both teams came out onto the football paddock.”

Former NSW hooker Benny Elias on State of Origin 2020

How will Queensland and New South Wales face off in Brisbane?

The Maroons could wrap up the series next week with another victory over a travelling NSW side. They’ll march to Suncorp Stadium still reeling following events in the closing stages of Game One and left wondering how they were unable to see out the tie and take control of the series.

Queensland took the first scalp in a sensational opening tie of the Origin series, claiming bragging rights on the road in front of a near-sell-out crowd in Adelaide. Down to 12 men in the final moments, the Maroons trailed 18-16 and were seemingly resigned to an opening day defeat, were it not for a late fightback through Tabuai-Fidow and Munster tries to seal a famous comeback.

But there’s one thing we know for certain: there’ll be biffs in Brisbane.

WATCH a classic biff moment with raining beer cans from State of Origin 1998 below.

This week, Queensland forward Tino Fa’asuamaleaui managed to escape punishment for an on-field incident that left his opposite man with a broken jaw, during a run-out for his NRL side, the Gold Coast Titans.

“I guess he came off second best.”

Queensland prop, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui

Fa’asuamaleaui has been cleared by the Match Review Committee to start for the Maroons next week but it certainly puts a target on the Titans captain’s back heading into Game Two. Fa’asuamaleaui distanced himself from claims of being a dangerous player, saying: “It’s football at the end of the day.”

Game Two of the State of Origin kicks off Wednesday 21 June at 8:05 pm AEST.