Tabloids on Origin hit a new low

MY FIRST boss at Rugby League Week, Geoff Prenter, was a visionary. A product of Sydney's fiercely competitive afternoon tabloid newspaper battles of the 70s, he often went over the top.

In its heyday, RLW was known as "The Bible", and so successful was it back in the early 80s that we reached the phenomenal milestone of 100,000 copies per week.

Prenter produced some startling front covers, and many a shock headline.

But while he pushed the envelope right to the edge, I can say with a clear conscience that RLW never manufactured the vitriol that we have endured recently from two of Australia's biggest-selling tabloid dailies.

I get it that both newspapers are engaged in their own State of Origin warfare around this marquee sporting event fought out between the states in which they are published. And no doubt the space given to Origin is a massive accompanying promotional tool for the game.

But they have gone too far. Some of the personal attacks launched are beyond what sport should be about, and while the players might say they ignore the newspapers, the belittling is just not the Australian way.

Sure Geoff Prenter produced beat-ups and sensationalist headings in the early days of RLW.

He called a spade a spade, but the magazine's approach was not about the public denigration of the players.

This contrived contempt for Origin players and past events by the two newspapers has gradually kicked in over recent years, but has descended to another level this series.

The low blows continued during the past week with a photo of the Morris twins dressed as girls, and the tasteless front-page headline questioning whether Queenslanders could trust Daly Cherry-Evans.

As a career journalist I accept that the heading on a story does not necessarily portray the content of what follows, while photo shopping means an image can be made to depict whatever the graphic artist wishes.

And yes, much of what I am criticising is clever.

But some of it is pointless and, in most cases unwarranted. The 'Come Play with Us' headline on the Morris twins' photo could be construed as a backhanded compliment, but was in poor taste.

And while the Cherry-Evans contract shuffle may have irked many, what he did was look after himself and his family, and play by the rules.

Habitual offenders - like Greg Bird and Todd Carney - are fair game for public ridicule because they have repeatedly brought the game into disrepute.

But taking pot shots at players simply because they wear an opposing jersey is childish, and disrespectful to one of Australia's great sporting innovations.

Why can't we celebrate - without the senseless vitriol - two talented teams that continue to provide wonderful entertainment each and every series?