Blues coach Brad Fittler reportedly held a secret meeting with referee boss Jared Maxwell ahead of the State of Origin series opener.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Fittler came armed with video highlighting illegal plays from Maroons players during last year’s Origin series and while playing for their NRL clubs.
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He pinpointed forward passes out of dummy half by Maroons hooker Harry Grant, offside plays from Cameron Munster and kick pressure on halfback Nathan Cleary.
Fittler’s fear was that the referees could have a big influence on the result and took the unusual step of making the approach ahead of the series.
He didn’t stop there. Fittler then sought out Maxwell after Game One, incensed at the performance of referee Ashley Klein.
Among his list of grievances were a cut-out ball from Kalyn Ponga leading to Dane Gagai’s try and Blues prop Junior Paulo being held in the scrum while Daly Cherry-Evans scored from close range.
He also wanted to address the speed of the ruck which has since become a key talking point leading into Game Two in Perth.
“(Queensland) got in tight and they held on,” Fittler said earlier this month.
“They didn’t want to give penalties away, I think we got a penalty with 17 minutes to go. “They did a great job, they worked hard there and they definitely won the ruck.”
It was a sentiment echoed by Blues assistant Greg Alexander on Monday night.
“We have to pay more focus to the ruck and realize it is not a club game,” he said on NRL360.
“It is Origin and penalties like to be at a minimum. You have to push the boundary. You don’t want to play too nice. I thought we were just too nice about things.
“It seemed like we didn’t want to offend anyone. We jumped off nice and clean and we did lose the ruck and we learned a lesson from that. I’m sure we will be better in that area.”
FITTLER’S BAFFLING RESPONSE EXPLANATION FOR MASS CHANGES
Blues coach Brad Fittler revealed he was happy with his selections for the series opener but still made a staggering seven changes to his side after a 16-10 loss in game one.
Now, ‘Freddy’ has admitted NSW selectors had to reassess, hoping to equal the series before heading to Queensland’s stomping ground in Game III.
Matt Burton, Apisai Koroisau, Angus Crichton, Siosifa Talakai and Jake Trbojevic are set to come into the 17, while Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Ryan Matterson and Tariq Sims were dropped with Jack Wighton ruled out due to Covid-19.
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“I was confident with the first team, but I have got to pick a team we can go over there and win with and this is it,” Fittler said.
“When you get beat, you need to reassess.
“We have no safety net at the moment, went into the first game thinking a certain way about how the game would go and what we could do but it didn’t happen.
“So going to Perth with a team I think we can win with.”
Fittler also explained he believed Jack Wighton was the Blues’ best in the series opener, revealing Panthers gun Stephen Crichton would take his place in the starting side.
“I thought he was our best player, I thought he was really strong, I am really disappointed for him,” Fittler said.
“I was talking to him and there was nearly movement around him being able to play, but he has been pretty crook, so the first two or three days he was very sick so he was ruled out straight away.”
Siosifa Talakai’s inclusion is a huge reward for his barnstorming form in the centers for the Sharks, but his selling point is his versatility according to the Blues coach.
The 25-year-old can be used in the middle and has played on an edge and in the centers for Craig Fitzgibbon this year.
“Talakai, well he gives us versatility, I think he started the season in the middle, played on and edge and then also has played center the whole year and done a great job,” Fittler said.
“He was mostly unlucky not to make the first game and he is someone we have been watching, he has been very exciting watching his season so I look forward to watching him play.”
Meanwhile, pundits slammed Jake Trbojevic’s omission from the Origin arena after Fittler announced his squad for the series opener.
After some passionate performances in recent weeks for the Sea Eagles, the Trbojevic family names return to the state vs state showcase, while
“Jake Trbojevic, just the way the game went in Game I, we really needed someone really defensive minded,” Fittler said.
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