Queensland coach Kevin Walters has declared the late-night ANZ pitch not fit for a State of Origin spectacle.
Only two tries in 80 minutes and a scoreless second half left many fans wanting more after the Maroons’ dour 6-4 win over NSW in the 2016 series opener on Wednesday night.
Walters, though, said the slippery, wintery conditions – exacerbated by the 8.20pm kick-off – had been a big factor in the low-scoring arm wrestle.
“I don’t want to knock ANZ Stadium here, but I think the conditions there don’t suit anything else but the way that the two teams can play,” he said on Fox Sports’ NRL 360.
“I mean, they say they’re professionals in passing and all this, but it’s difficult when you’ve got blokes coming at you at a hundred miles an hour trying to pass, trying to tackle, it does make conditions really tough for the players.”
Walters also said the prime-time kick-off might suit TV, but not the occasion.
“It’s too late,” Walters said. “Players are waiting all day and, as a player, we used to play at 7 or 7.30pm.
“That extra hour for the mind games that it plays, I think that it puts too much pressure on the players and I don’t think it allows them to play that style of football that everyone wants to see, that both teams could play if allowed to.”
Fans are also growing frustrated by the TV-driven late kick-off and say it’s becoming a turn-off for potentially the next generation of rugby league stars.
“My boy’s 10 and he goes to bed five minutes after kick-off. How’s he going to remember the game in 20 years like we used to,” said disgruntled punter Peter McCormick, who didn’t take his family to the game because of the near-midnight finish.
“He loves his league now, but he’ll probably end up playing AFL.”
The two coaches were also left scratching their heads by the 22-minute halftime break.
“It is a long time,” Walters said.
“The players are sitting there thinking ‘when are we going to run back out here?’
“That’s what I could see. ‘Hang on, how long are we in here for? When’s this second half going to start.'”