Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga faces a battle to soothe simmering tensions between NSW and Queensland players in the heated aftermath of the State of Origin series.
The Maroons were livid when retiring Blues skipper Paul Gallen led the NSW team off on a lap of honour at ANZ Stadium while counterpart Cameron Smith lifted the Origin shield following their 2-1 series win.
Gallen did his best to downplay the snub on Thursday, however it is believed NSW players were angered by a perceived deliberate increase in verbal abuse directed the veteran skipper’s way during the match.
Gallen admitted there was a noticeable increase in trash talk in his Origin farewell, and that that an old-school stoush would’ve been on, had punches not been outlawed in 2013.
“There was a few verbals going on right throughout the night from both sides,” Gallen said on Triple M.
“The way Jimmy (Maloney) reacted to Corey (Parker), had it been a few years ago, it may have been on.”
Maroons star Johnathan Thurston labelled the walkout disrespectful post-game, while Smith pointed out how Queensland stayed on the field following the Blues’ breakthrough series win in 2014.
The bitter fallout threatens to create a headache for former Maroons coach Meninga, who has three months to ensure there is no divide in the Kangaroos team ahead of the Four Nations tournament.
Gallen played his final Origin match for NSW in the 18-14 win, although he hasn’t ruled out making a Kangaroos farewell at the Four Nations.
He was man of the match in Australia’s most recent Test match, a win over New Zealand in May.
New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney weighed in on the saga on Friday, indicating he did not expect to benefit from interstate sniping in the Australian camp.
“Playing for the Kangaroos, they’ll just move on,” he said.
“I know it’ll mean a great deal to them so I think it’s more a storm in a teacup. Once they pull on the Australian jumper, you play for your country and you’re all in there together.
“I’m certainly not licking my lips.”
The Kangaroos’ next game is a pre-tournament Test against the Kiwis in Perth on October 15, before kicking off the Four Nations against Scotland in Hull on October 28.