Wayne Bennett has taken aim at NRL stars complaining of five-day turnarounds, saying they are more concerned about getting paid for State of Origin games than addressing the toll the series schedule takes on players.
Bennett claimed the priority should be pushing for stand-alone Origin games and not abolishing five-day turnarounds, saying the inter-state series had the biggest impact on a team’s NRL season.
“Player welfare really starts around Origin time … but they are getting $30,000 a game and are happy to cop that and they shut their mouth about the other part and have a whinge about five-day turnarounds for the rest of the season,” Bennett said.
“You can’t have it both ways in my book.
“I can’t seriously listen to players complaining about the five-day turnaround until they get serious about Origin and say we shouldn’t have to back up in two days.
“If we were serious about player welfare, that would be the first thing (addressed).”
Bennett was livid that his Queensland stars had to start the Origin period by playing three games in eight days – the June 1 series opener in Sydney, June 4 against Warriors in Auckland and June 9 home to Canberra.
On top of that, Brisbane’s Origin players must play three games in nine days following Origin II on June 22.
Bennett fears the toll Origin will have on his side this year.
“The five-day turnaround is not the issue – it’s how much you have to give (in Origin),” he said.
“It’s two or three weeks later (after an Origin game) when you are just flat and can’t play.
“Look at where we are nearly every season.
“We are in the top two or three and when Origin is over we have finished all over the shop.
“We got away with it last year (to make NRL grand final).
“I am not overly confident of getting away with it this year.”