Queensland has responded to last year’s State of Origin III fireworks, insisting that it was NSW and not the Maroons who were the aggressors throughout the series. This comes amidst NSW’s inclusion of enforcers Tevita Pangai Junior and Hudson Young in a bid to ensure they are not bullied off the pitch again this time around. However, captain Daly Cherry-Evans yelling at referee Ashley Klein in the middle of Suncorp Stadium highlights the Maroons‘ frustrations.
During Origin III last year, Dane Gagai launched a flurry of punches at Matt Burton while Tino Fa’asuamaleaui held Burton back. Cherry-Evans yelled at Klein “All game, all series, they’ve taken us out off the ball. All series. All series. What did you expect to happen? They can’t keep doing that shit.” Two incidents from game two in Perth – Cameron Munster being hit by Stephen Crichton, then Nathan Cleary whacking Kalyn Ponga – had left Queensland bemused.
Senior Maroon Ben Hunt has told the media that his teammates had simply run out of patience after a string of late shots by the Blues. Hunt says “It was definitely happening to us [being taken out off the ball], but it’s Origin footy, it’s a tough brand of footy, and you need to keep your head on a swivel…I think that night it reached a boiling point, a couple of guys had had enough and it teed off. I can tell you we haven’t mentioned it in this camp. It’s a new year and a fresh start.”
Blues coach Brad Fittler said of the potential fireworks this week: “If you look at their team, they have a lot of combative players. You can’t walk away from that. That will be a pretty enjoyable part of the game.” The first World Cup in five years may have brought some love between the NSW and Queensland players, but as Pat Carrigan said before Christmas: “Having experienced Origin last year, I know it’s all bets are off in that arena…I’ve now got some mates for life there, but I know when Origin rolls around next year, especially after we got lucky and got the chocolates this year, the Blues boys will be teeing off, for sure.”
Furthermore, Hunt has enjoyed the week away in camp after what has been another tough start to the year in clubland. This includes St George Illawarra’s decision to part ways with coach Anthony Griffin, a close friend of Hunt. “I’ve spoken with Hook a couple of times. He’s alright, or as good as can be. It’s a tough industry, and he knows that…It’s good to freshen up mentally, get away from what’s going on there and just concentrate on Queensland.”