The dark side of the State of Origin hasn't changed.

On State of Origin night, many will be donning blue or maroon jerseys, watching the game on television or at pubs and bars. There will be cheering. There will definitely be drinking. One team will lose, one team will win. 

Amid one of sport's biggest nights of the year though, there are countless women across the country who will be terrified tonight. Even though this rugby league series is one of Australia's most anticipated sporting events, for women living in abusive relationships, it's a time for hypervigilance.

Five years ago, we wrote this very story

For 12 hours, from 6pm this evening, Australian women and children are at more risk of harm than on almost any other Wednesday evening of the year.

Incidences of domestic violence surge by 40.7 per cent. 

The years-long study, published in 2018 by the New South Wales Bureau of Statistics and Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education found incidences of domestic assault rise because of State of Origin - rugby league's annual "state-against-state, mate-against-mate" clash between New South Wales vs Queensland, which is played three times a year. 

Watch: women and violence, the hidden numbers. Post continues below. 

Video via Mamamia. 

Five years ago, there was widespread condemnation of these statistics. People were outraged at the surge being a direct consequence of these games and the rise in alcohol assumption on Origin game nights. 

What's happened in the years since these statistics were released you might be asking?

Women aren't any safer. They're equally terrified and at risk, perhaps even more.

In 2019, a year after this alarming research was published, the Australian Rugby League Commission announced the No Fault Stand Down rule for players who are charged with serious criminal offences. In the past five years, numerous rugby league players have stood trial over domestic violence and sexual assault charges. 

"This is about sending a clear message the game does not tolerate violence, against women or children," the Chairman said at the time said. "Our job is to rebuild the reputation and protect the game. That reputation has been damaged by recent events. This is about a standard that's expected."

Sadly, that reputation remains marred. Since 2018, at least 15 NRL players have been stood down over alleged incidences involving violence against women, as reported by Australian media. 

Although it's important that policies like No Fault Stand Down exist, the fact this many players had to be stood down in the first place in relation to allegations of violence against women is devastating.


In 2021, No To Violence — a hotline for male perpetrators to get help — saw a 34 per cent increase in referrals the week after the AFL grand final in Victoria. Victoria Police also reported a 20 per cent increase in family violence on AFL grand final night.

From 2018 to 2024, 389 women have lost their lives to violence, as per Destroy the Joint. This number is only set to increase.

Annabelle Daniel OAM is the CEO of Women's Community Shelters and the Chair of Domestic Violence NSW. Speaking with Mamamia, she has seen firsthand what many victim-survivors have had to endure on Origin nights over the years.

She knows shelters and refuges across NSW and QLD are on high alert tonight. 

"When alcohol and sport collide, it can be a very unsafe time for women. Alcohol is an accelerant and we know it's also a disinhibitor. Calls for help to our shelters increase around this time and in the immediate aftermath. We've had women saying they know that when their husband comes home from the match and his team's lost, she will be in for it," says Daniel. 

"Women tell us they put strategies in place to ensure their family's safety, like taking themselves out of the home and staying with friends for the night, or ensuring their children are particularly quiet the day after the game. A colleague whose ex-partner was violent towards her once told me: 'As soon as I saw he'd gone past one beer, I'd be on high alert, thinking, am I going to have to defend myself tonight?'"


The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) reports that alcohol is involved in up to 65 per cent of family violence incidences reported to the police. 

Caterina Giorgi is the CEO of FARE. Five years ago, her team confirmed the link between violence and State of Origin. Looking at how little has changed for women in this country within the past five years, she says it's difficult to reflect on. 

"This research was undertaken five years ago, but it’s still as important now as it was back then. We haven't seen governments introduce measures that would reduce this violence. In fact, we've seen governments even extend the accessibility of alcohol into the home," she says.

"Australian evidence shows greater access to alcohol increases the risk of violence – and the largely unregulated explosion in online sales and delivery has only added fuel to the fire."

Daniel adds: "Men who are emotionally invested in their team and have watched them lose, can try to re-establish a sense of dominance or control by turning to violence in the home. Even after a win, the culture of drinking and hyper-masculinity often intersects potently with gambling and increased spending, causing increased tension and putting women at greater risk of harm."

While not every man who drinks will be violent and not every violent man drinks, we know that it is an accelerant, increasing the rates of physical violence and injury for women experiencing domestic abuse.

Ultimately, Daniel and Giorgi both note that sporting codes have a significant role to play, including how they hold perpetrators in their own ranks to account, how they support victims, and rethinking their heavy reliance on alcohol sponsorship. Alcohol companies also bear responsibility, as does our government. 


For women tonight who are concerned for their safety, we are thinking of you. Resources and support is available.

To the men who make the cowardly decision to hurt someone they're supposed to love and respect tonight and any night going forward — enough is enough. The women and children of Australia deserve so much better.

Mamamia reached out to the NRL's Respect unit, aiming to hear an update on their Voice Against Violence program which assists the rugby league community to prevent violence against women and children. Once/if we receive a comment, we will update our article accordingly.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Mamamia is a charity partner of RizeUp Australia, a national organisation that helps women, children and families move on after the devastation of domestic and family violence. Their mission is to deliver life-changing and practical support to these families when they need it most. If you would like to support their mission you can donate here

Feature Image: AAP.