NSW coach Laurie Daley is on a collision course with the NRL, and rugby league history, as the Blues desperately seek to stave off another State of Origin series defeat.
Daley didn’t offer much analysis of NSW’s 6-4 game one defeat in his three-minute post-game press conference late on Wednesday night.
But he did toss out a juicy headline for journalists and spark a debate that is sure to continue for the next three weeks until Origin II at Suncorp Stadium.
The embattled Blues mentor wants experienced referees Gerald Sutton and Ben Cummins axed for the return interstate fixture in Brisbane after a controversial effort at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday.
An overturned Josh Morris try and a scrum feed handed back to Queensland 10m out from their goalline late in the piece, were among the contentious decisions that had the Blues fuming post-match.
But also at issue for Daley was the slow speed of the ruck and NSW’s perception that the Maroons superstars, especially Cameron Smith, get away with repeated indiscretions.
Sutton and Cummins refereed all three Origin games last year and the NRL grand final. But after Queensland’s dour two-point win on Wednesday, Daley has clearly had enough of the pair.
“Put it this way, I will be asking for those two referees not to be officiating in game two … there is your story.”
When asked why he wanted the referees changed Daley replied: “based on history and based on that game.”
Whether Daley’s comments attract a fine from the NRL, who appoint the referees for Origin fixtures remains to be seen. But the game’s governing body is now under extreme pressure to either stand by their whistleblowers or move them aside for game two.
Daley’s comments come a month after Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson was fined $40,000 for a spray he launched at Cummins.
In his cause Daley has an unlikely ally in Queensland coach Kevin Walters, who said the visitors enjoyed the rub of the green in his first match as Maroons mentor.
“To be honest we got some favourable calls and you need that to win at this level,” Walters said.
“You can’t do it by yourself. You do need a bit of assistance and a bit of luck, that was the case for Queensland tonight.
“All of the 50-50 calls went Queensland’s way.”
History will be leaning the Maroons’ way when the sides resume hostilities at Suncorp Stadium on June 22, the scene of NSW’s record 52-6 hammering in last year’s decider.
The Blues have only won one live Origin match at the venue and the state that has won the first match of an Origin series has been crowned victor on 25 of 34 occasions.
The Blues have a huge task ahead of them, but Daley indicated he wouldn’t look to alter his side.
“There were some really encouraging signs for us because we are a young team, we have a lot of new blokes,” he said.
“We always knew that they were going to get better as the series rolled on.
“So we are going to get it right in Queensland. It is tough going to Queensland to try and win, we have to make sure we go up there and prepare well and do the best we possibly can.
“All is not lost.”