NSW players say Blues coaching great Phil Gould’s criticism that skipper Paul Gallen is too old for State of Origin is plain wrong.
Gould has repeatedly asserted that 33-year-old Gallen’s time as an Origin player is “done” and that he can’t understand the need to rush the Cronulla captain back for Game II, after missing Game I amid a long injury layoff.
Gould is well placed to comment, as NSW’s most successful coach, leading the Blues to six series wins and one draw over nine years.
The two-time premiership winner’s criticism centres around his concern about Gallen’s lateral movement in defence, which Queensland are expected to target at the MCG next week.
But Blues fullback Josh Dugan was miffed when asked about Gould’s comments at the Blues Coffs Harbour base on Wednesday.
“I think he (Gallen) wil prove how old he is next week, he’ll probably be one of our best players like he is nearly every Origin,” Dugan said.
“He’ll go for as long as he can and as long as he’s playing great footy and putting the performances on the board I don’t see why he can’t be there.”
NSW winger Will Hopoate said Gallen’s return was vital to the Blues cause after their Game I loss last month in Sydney.
“Gal is our skipper and I have been fortunate enough to play with Gal in an Origin match before,” Hopoate said.
“He is an inspirational leader and captain, and I am grateful he is a part of our team again.”