Maroons captain Daly Cherry-Evans has urged players in both camps not to milk penalties in this year’s State of Origin series.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, the 32-year-old echoed comments made by NSW captain James Tedesco over the weekend, saying he hopes sportsmanship is not sacrificed in the pursuit of state glory.
“I think it’s definitely going to be a bit of a gentlemen’s agreement to be honest,” the Sea Eagles star said.
“As players we all know what Origin is about, what it means to each other, to the fans.
“We aren’t gladiators, but we are playing a very heavy contact sport.
“Everyone’s going to put everything out there and I don’t think there will be too much of that stuff going on.
“That’s sportsmanship at the end of the day … Origin is a different beast and I think everyone is looking forward to playing their hardest and toughest.”
The Maroons flew to Townsville on Monday ahead of Origin I. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Diving has been a hot topic amid the NRL’s controversial crackdown on illegal contact.
Most recently, NRL legends took aim at Tigers fullback Daine Laurie for appearing to milk a penalty in his side’s win over the Panthers on Friday.
“We see there some gamesmanship if you like from Laurie. He laid down, got the penalty, straight back to his feet, smile on his face,” Broncos legend Corey Parker said in commentary.
“Now that’s the issue, that’s the issue a lot of people are having with what’s going on.”
“I’ve got an issue with it, especially from my team,” Balmain great Steve Roach added.
“You’ve got to get to your feet. He won the penalty but people won’t appreciate that.”
Despite the backlash caused by Laurie’s alleged dive, the NRL’s head of football Graham Annesley remains confident milking will not make its way into the Origin arena, despite the league’s commitment to maintaining its tough stance on high contact during the three-game series.
“I’d like to think that our game is different to some other games and that players generally won’t take that sort of action,” he said at his weekly briefing on Monday.
“(In Origin), it’s almost counterintuitive that players would fake some sort of injury.
“I don’t imagine you’re going to be too popular with your teammates and your opposition players if you’re known for (diving).”
The Match Review Committee is able to charge players with contrary conduct if it feels a dive has taken place, but Annesley conceded that milking is a difficult issue to regulate.
“It’s an issue that’s difficult to deal with,” he said.
“If there’s even any kind of minor contact that could have caused an injury, it’s very difficult to say in looking at a video, ‘You didn’t get injured in that tackle’”.
Last week, Annesley said referees would continue to take a dim view of high contact during the State of Origin series.
“We’ve got a responsibility to our players in what is the most physical, the fastest, the most intense level of our game that can be played,” he said last Monday.
But Cherry-Evans said he hopes match officials won’t compromise the spectacle of Origin in policing the game.
“For those little accidental shots and those ones that brush past with high contact, it’d be great to see that refereed as a penalty, ideally,” he said.
“The product of Origin is amazing, 13 on 13, some of the best players from each state going together and I don’t want to have to come off talking about referees.
“I don’t think that’s fair to them, they’ve been under a lot of scrutiny this year so hopefully we can let the footy do the talking as players.”
Game I of this year’s State of Origin series kicks off this Wednesday evening at Townsville’s Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
The match, which was relocated from the MCG amid Melbourne’s outbreak of Covid-19, will be the first Origin fixture held in North Queensland.
New South Wales enters the game as favourites, despite naming three debutants in its side for Game I.
Queensland will hope to capitalise on its home-ground advantage in its first game under new coach Paul Green.
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