Big crowd befits gripping Women's Origin contest

In the last men's interstate match before State of Origin commenced, just 1368 patrons shuffled through the gates of a desolate suburban Sydney ground.

On Friday, when Women's State of Origin kicked off at North Sydney Oval, there were 6824 people in attendance.

That's the story of two completely different trajectories – one of a concept that was in decline, and another of a concept that looks set to skyrocket.

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And just as officials took a gamble in 1980 to rejuvenate a tired men's representative calendar with Origin, the backers of women's rugby league look to have been rewarded for their daring.

While male Origin crowds of 50,000-plus are now the norm, past women's interstate matches have often been held before crowds of less than 500.

But such is the strength of the Origin brand and the growing appreciation of female rugby league, that number multiplied more than tenfold.

Fans were delivered a quality of action deserving of their time, with the teams locked up 6-all after a tense and physical first half.

New South Wales struck first via centre Isabelle Kelly in the ninth minute, exploiting on overlap to the left for the second time in a manner of minutes.

Blues Skipper Maddie Studdon added the conversion to make it 6-all.

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The hits were coming thick and fast, no more so than from New South Wales lock Vanessa Foliaki.

Yet it was Queensland captain Karina Brown who brought the game alive with a sliding try at the opposite corner of the field just four minutes later.

She became the first Queensland woman to notch her name in the scorebooks under the Origin banner.

Emu Park Teenager Rhiannon Revell-Blair almost became the second in the final moments before the halftime hooter, but her diving attempt to ground a crossfield kick came up just short.

One figure who was inspirational towards the end of the opening stanza was veteran powerhouse Steph Hancock, who gave immediate impact in defence and attack after being injected off the bench.

Hancock was coaxed out of retirement by Queensland coach Jason Hetherington and provided a similar guiding, intimidating hand that Arthur Beetson did in Origin's seminal moment.

The tightness of the match extended to the second period, where Nakia Davis-Welsh stepped inside the cover defence to score for New South Wales in the 38th minute.

But again it was not long before a response came, captain Brown once more breaching the tryline after being set up by half Ali Brigginshaw.

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Baker's conversion from out wide this time hit the posts and it was 10-all with 13 minutes left to play.

Everywhere-woman Brown looked to have secured a place in legend with two try-saving tackles in a row at the death, including one on a runaway Lavina O'Mealey.

However Isabelle Kelly ended the game the hero for New South Wales with a scything run that wrong-footed Queensland's right-side sliding defence for the second time in the half.

Her try was converted by Studdon and the first-ever Women's Origin ended 16-10 in favour of the Blues.

NEW SOUTH WALES 16 (Isabelle Kelly 2, Nakia Davis -Welsh tries; Maddison Studdon 2 goals) def QUEENSLAND 10 (Karina Brown 2 tries; Chelsea Baker goal) at North Sydney Stadium.