War of words adds spice to State of Origin
Blues' coach Ricky Stuart and his Queensland counterpart Mal Meninga will use outspoken comments made by the other to help motivate their players for tonight's Origin clash at ANZ Stadium.
With the series on the line and NSW desperate to stop the Maroons winning the Origin shield for a record seventh consecutive year, the former Canberra teammates have put their friendship on hold until after game three at Suncorp Stadium in three weeks' time.
Meninga, who described some of those involved in the Blues campaign last year as ''rats and filth'' in a newspaper column, and Stuart have been sniping at each other since the beginning of this year's series.
Both camps have compiled dossiers of comments made by the rival coaches to serve as added motivation for their players ahead of tonight's encounter, which some - including Andrew Johns - predict could spill over into open warfare on the field.
Blues assistant Trent Barrett admitted Stuart's desire to provide no further ammunition for Meninga was a factor in the NSW coach's decision to withdraw from the team's final scheduled news conference at Homebush Bay yesterday.
Meninga attempted to play down the war of words when he and the Queensland team arrived in Sydney, but he admitted that his questioning whether NSW had the right ''mentality'' for Origin had already fired the Blues up after Stuart accused the Maroons of being ''smug''.
''I know what Ricky said, but that's probably come out of a statement I made in Roma, which I reckon was taken out of context,'' Meninga said at Sydney Airport.
''Ricky knows me, we've known each other for many, many years. He knows I'd never disrespect him or his NSW team.
''We never go out to disrespect our opposition at all, that's not us. Humility is a big part of our process and that's whey we've been successful.''
However, sources in the NSW camp said it was impossible to misinterpret what Meninga had meant when he said: ''If we get beaten we just put our hand up and say: 'We should play better.' They [NSW] don't seem to have that sort of mentality.''
The Blues have also been branded ''whingers'' for complaining about video referee Sean Hampstead's decision to award the try to Greg
Inglis that gave Queensland an 18-10 lead in game one - even though he was not reappointed to the job for Origin II.
Stuart engaged SportsData to compile an independent analysis of the performances of referees Matt Cecchin, who has been dropped for Tony Archer, and Ben Cummins, which found NSW could have been awarded up to 12 more penalties.
Stuart met referees' bosses Bill Harrigan and Stuart Raper last Friday, and Meninga was asked yesterday if he would like a similar meeting.
''I am over the referees,'' he said. ''Honestly, we have never used them as an excuse. We will just abide by the rules of the game and will worry about ourselves.''
Meanwhile, Barrett defended Stuart's failure to attend the pre-match news conference, despite NSW having criticised Meninga for sending Allan Langer in his place before Origin I. ''He has done more than enough, I think, to promote the game this week and it is indicative of having 84,000 people there tomorrow night,'' Barrett said.
Both teams finished their preparations with training sessions at ANZ Stadium and the Maroons dismissed rumours last night about the fitness of five-eighth Johnathan Thurston. However, he left all the kicking to Cameron Smith and Cooper Cronk while reporters were there.
- Sydney Morning Herald