IT’S rare for a Queenslander to show any sympathy towards New South Wales.
But both captain Cameron Smith and victorious rookie coach Kevin Walters believe it would be unjust if Blues coach Laurie Daley paid the ultimate price for a clean sweep series loss in such a closely contested interstate series.
Debate over Daley’s future as NSW coach has inevitably surfaced, with the Blues facing their first series 3-0 shutout since 2010 – and just two years after ending Queensland’s amazing eight-series record streak.
Walters, who has enjoyed a dream Origin coaching debut, believes Daley has been unfairly bagged despite making a lot of key changes to the side belted 52-6 in game three last year.
He believes Daley deserves to be given a few years with the new players he has blooded, including powerful youngster Jack Bird – who will make his starting debut opposite Maroons great Johnathan Thurston – and young forward tyro Tyson Frizell to mould a successful squad capable of dominating Origin.
Asked if Daley’s job was on the line tonight if Queensland inflicted a 3-0 drubbing, Walters went on the defensive, saying he would be extremely disappointed if that scenario happened.
“Laurie won a series two years ago,” said Walters, who has had a personal victory himself with the Queensland Rugby League publicly preferring North Queensland coach Paul Green over him initially.
“I know how much work Laurie has put into preparing his side, how passionate he is and what Origin means to him.
“He’s copped a lot of criticism throughout the series and much of it – well, all of it – has been, I believe, unwarranted.
“There wasn’t much in game one – two points – and in game two they fought very hard and were a bit unlucky with a few things.
“NSW can quite easily come out tonight and win the game, that’s what worries me the most.”
Smith will again lift the Origin Shield in front of disappointed Sydney crowd hoping for a repeat of their 2014 series win.
Smith said if only 60,000 fans turned out tonight it would be disappointing for NSW players who had put in big efforts in Origin I and II.
“They lost the first game by two points and were right in game two until near the end,” he said.
“They’re a quality football team and their fans should get out and support them, especially with Paul Gallen playing his last game.
“I think he (Daley) is a great guy and wonderful coach. He understands the game, one of the best players to have played our game, particularly at Origin level.
“Whether he stays or goes is totally out of our control.
“But he is good enough to stay there and coach them, he has got some youth coming through at the moment, (in) Bird and Frizell.”
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