Bloods Legend Bob Skilton says it was an “honour” to play State of Origin football and would love to see the concept become a yearly fixture again.
State of Origin football will return as a one-off event when Victoria meets the All Stars in a match for bushfire relief next Friday night, which is set to feature Sydney Swans trio Callum Mills, Jake Lloyd and Tom Papley.
Having played 25 games for Victoria, captained the ‘Big V’ and served as a selector, Skilton’s name is synonymous with State of Origin football.
And as Marvel Stadium prepares to host the first State of Origin clash since Victoria met the Dream Team at the MCG in the Hall of Fame Tribute Match in 2008, the triple Brownlow medallist is hoping the concept is here to stay.
“It was great playing for your state and it was the same for the Western Australian boys and the same for the South Australian boys. It was an honour to be picked for and to represent your state. We just loved it,” Skilton told SEN.
“I’ve not struck anyone who did not want to represent their state and play with the best.
“The honour you felt inside when representing your state – it’s hard to explain, but it was a wonderful feeling to run down the race and know you were representing, in my case, Victoria.
“I’d like to see State of Origin be played every year. Surely we can put away one weekend in every football season to give the players a chance of enjoying the honour that we had.”
Skilton played his first state game in 1958, made his last appearance in 1968 and captained Victoria in 1965.
He played 237 games for South Melbourne in the years spanning 1956-1971 and retired with a resume rivalled by few, winning the Brownlow Medal in 1959, 1963 and 1968, taking out the Club Champion honour nine times and topping the Swans’ goal-kicking three times.
Skilton is also an Australian Football Hall of Fame Legend, was named as a rover in the AFL Team of the Century, was named captain of the Swans Team of the Century and was inducted as a Bloods Legend in 2009.
A bronze statue of the former champion was erected outside the Swans’ Melbourne office in July 2018, with its plaque paying tribute to a footballer who was “Brilliant, resilient, courageous and scrupulously fair”.
As Victoria’s captain, Skilton had the task of leading a side packed with stars of the league, but he said he learned to relax in the role.
“It is a little bit intimidating, particularly in the first place,” Skilton said.
“But their attitude is usually to make it easy for you. They respect playing for Victoria and they respect the leaders, no matter who it is. Admittedly, Ted Whitten was one of my closest mates.”
Victoria’s Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield and Scott Pendlebury, and the All Stars’ Nat Fyfe, Patrick Cripps and Jack Riewoldt, are among the many gun footballers set to run out for next week’s State of Origin match for bushfire relief.
When Victoria met the Dream Team in 2008, glorified names like Adam Goodes, Andrew McLeod, Matthew Richardson and Matthew Pavlich took to the MCG.
Skilton says he loves watching every footballer in the league and particularly those of the blue-collar kind.
“I love the guy who is not a great player but is giving his heart and soul,” Skilton said.
“That to me is more what it’s about than the star players.”