Queensland coach Mal Meninga says captain Cameron Smith “deserves respect” but has described the fallout over Alex McKinnon’s scathing criticism as a “no win situation”.
Back-rower Corey Parker revealed the team had rallied around Smith ahead of Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider in Brisbane after McKinnon had taken aim on Sunday night on the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes.
McKinnon was upset over on-field comments that Melbourne skipper Smith made following the tackle that ended the ex-Newcastle forward’s NRL career in March last year.
McKinnon told the program he believed Smith had implied that the Knights’ player had been somewhat to blame for his spinal injury suffered in a three-man tackle.
Meninga backed Smith but did not want to weigh into the debate, saying the team wanted to put the issue behind them.
“I have a private opinion but I don’t want to air that publicly,” he said.
“But what everyone has been saying, I concur with – Cameron is a decent human being.
“He is a respected member of the rugby league fraternity and deserves some respect.
“But you can’t win by making any kind of comment.”
Meanwhile, Meninga said he understood why NSW would give hooker Robbie Farah (hand) until the last minute on Wednesday to prove his fitness but had also prepared for Mick Ennis to play in the Origin II decider.
Meninga also toasted 33-year-old centre Justin Hodges ahead of his 24th and final Origin game for Queensland, describing it as an end of an era.
“He’s good fun, a great character and doesn’t mind giving a bit of cheek – he can cop it as well,” Meninga said.
“He is a great ambassador but also one of the best centres who has played the game.”