NSW great Ben Elias has stopped short of calling Mal Meninga a sore loser but admits the Queensland coach’s pre-Origin III no-show is not a good look.
NSW great Ben Elias has baulked at calling Queensland coach Mal Meninga a sore loser but admits his pre-State of Origin media no-show is not a good look.
The Maroons raised eyebrows when they cancelled their usual media opportunity on Monday, with Meninga apparently putting his business commitments ahead of publicising Wednesday night’s third game.
It was left to NSW mentor Laurie Daley on Monday to urge Queensland fans to show their support for the Maroons as they seek to avoid their first series clean sweep in 14 years, with about 6000 tickets still unsold for the Suncorp Stadium clash.
“As a coach you have a responsibility to represent your state through good and bad,” ex-Blues skipper Elias, a veteran of 19 Origins, told AAP.
“He is like the premier of that state he is so highly regarded, he has an obligation.
“So for him to do that is disappointing. People want to hear from the coach.
“But Mal has been around the block a few times. He’s got his way of doing things.
“I don’t think he is a sore loser. I have a high regard for Mal.”
Queensland chief selector Des Morris defended Meninga, saying any suggestion of sour grapes from critics would be “pretty harsh”.
“Knowing what Mal has put into this I think that (criticising his no-show) is pretty harsh, it’s a bit left field,” he told AAP.
“Mal’s commitment to the team over the last eight years is unquestionable.”
Monday is traditionally Queensland’s day off, but both the NSW and Maroons captains usually speak with the media while the two coaches hold press conferences on match eve.
However, at the request of the NRL the arrangement has been changed with Blues skipper Paul Gallen and Queensland captain Cameron Smith asked to talk to the media on Tuesday.
Daley switched to do his media conference on Monday but it seems Meninga, who deals with his business on Mondays, won’t be speaking again before the match.
“I am not sure what the story is there to be honest,” Morris said of Meninga’s unavailability.
“But Mal makes himself available most of the time. It’s not an issue.”
It is the first time since 2010 that game three has not been a series decider and Meninga criticised league powerbrokers for raising ticket prices earlier this year when sales were slow for Origin I in Brisbane.
“I think it might be a combination of the increased price and that the series is decided, and I suppose we haven’t had two games in a series up here in a while,” Morris said.
“But we have still got 48 hours. I am sure by kick-off more people will get on board.”
Meanwhile, Morris hosed down concerns for Johnathan Thurston after the Queensland pivot failed to complete Sunday’s training session.
Thurston suffered a corked thigh after colliding with a player during an opposed session at their Gold Coast camp.
Thurston spent the rest of Sunday’s session icing his knee on the sidelines.
“You don’t want to see that happen to any player let alone JT,” Morris said.
“But that was just precautionary.
“Talking to Mal today there does not seem to be any dramas.”