Less than 300 turn up for Origin homecoming

Last updated 21:53 10/07/2014
Paul Gallen
Getty Images
WHERE ARE YOUR FANS? New South Wales captain Paul Gallen shows off the Shield to the less than 300 supporters who showed up to welcome them home at Sydney Opera House.

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A sea - or rather a harbour of blue greeted Laurie Daley and Paul Gallen on Thursday at the Opera House.

But where were all the NSW fans?

That precious State of Origin shield - which Gallen revealed he slept with last night - is finally back in Sydney after eight years north of the border.

Last month at ANZ Stadium, a heaving crowd of 83,421 cheered as NSW clinched the series.

But at a celebration event to mark the seismic shift in rugby league power at Circular Quay, there were less than 300 people in attendance.

It was school holidays and the sun was shining.

The same catwalk and platform that staged Australia's Ashes winning cricketers in January was set.

There was an abundance of blue wigs being handed out - yet a distinct lack of heads there to wear them.

Queenslanders will no doubt claim the modest turnout as proof that they still hold a mortgage over State of Origin passion, despite their dynasty coming to an end on the field.

But the question is, did Blues fans even know the event was on?

Details were only made public less than 24 hours before the tribute, even though NSW clinched the series way back on June 18.

That's hardly enough notice for families to find their way into the city and "thank the team" as the media release stated.

Jarryd Hayne was taking "selfies" with the crowd, and all other Sydney-based players - and their affable coach Daley - were happy to sign autographs and take time talking to their loyal supporters.

But the players deserved more and fans deserved a better atmosphere - just like at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night when Gallen lifted the Origin shield to a half-empty stadium and a chorus of boos from the partisan Maroons' crowd.

Common sense tells you he should have been allowed to show off the shield at ANZ Stadium on June 18, when those 83,421 Blues fans were cheering the house down.

Perhaps this civic reception hosted by NSW Premier Mike Baird would also have been better staged in the immediate aftermath of the win in Sydney, when emotions were still running high.

NRL chief executive Dave Smith described Origin on Thursday as a "phenomenon" with nation-wide interest skyrocketing this year.

In that vein, the public celebration was a fine initiative by the game.

But timing and promotion was all at sea.

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