State of Origin - game two from ANZ Stadium, Sydney
Jarryd Hayne feels the pinch. Photo: Quentin Jones
NSW players are considering defying an edict from NRL chief executive David Gallop and boycotting their round-16 club matches to prepare for the Origin series decider at Suncorp Stadium.
Blues coach Ricky Stuart asked his entire squad to stand down from club matches after the NRL refused to move the St George Illawarra-Manly game from Monday week. It is understood Stuart had forewarned Dragons coach Wayne Bennett of his proposal and is likely to have his support as Bennett is also furious with the NRL scheduling that led to the premiers fielding a virtual park side against the Titans last Friday night.
St George Illawarra and Brisbane will each have five players forced to back up from last night's fast-paced Origin encounter in tomorrow night's match at Suncorp Stadium.
Stuart said he had been considering asking his players to take the dramatic stance after the Herald last week revealed that the Dragons and Sea Eagles would play the day after the NSW team for Origin III is named.
''It is unfair for us in Game III,'' Stuart said. ''I've got about eight players involved in that game so therefore I am missing two to three sessions out of my preparation leading into the most important game of the season, so I have asked everyone of them in there to consider standing down from the next game.''
Blues players were advised not to comment on Stuart's controversial request but the Herald was told that their initial reaction after hearing his proposal was supportive - they would be prepared to miss a club game if it helped them end Queensland's five-year Origin domination.
''They want to win Game III,'' Stuart said. ''It is a real issue for the game itself. We have got to work this scheduling and the programming a lot better because it is unfair going into Game III when I am going to have two or three sessions less. If this was a dead rubber it is not an issue.''
The issue has put Stuart and the Blues players on a collision course with Gallop after the NRL boss last night insisted they must play for their clubs.
''No, it's not possible. One of the reasons that Origin is so successful is because we play it on a Wednesday night, which gives potentially a 10- to 12-day build-up,'' Gallop said when told by the Herald of Stuart's proposal. ''Even with that Monday game, there will still be a nine-day preparation, it's the way the system works.''
Asked if Blues players wanting to stand down from club duties that weekend to prepare for Origin could do so, Gallop replied: ''No. The league's had rules for many years about that, no.''
Stuart admitted his idea was likely to be met with resistance from NRL clubs but said his focus was on winning the Origin series for NSW.
''It is probably not realistic but I have got a Monday game with seven or eight players from tonight's game involved in that game and we are going to miss two or three training sessions,'' he said. ''We won't be able to train until probably Thursday whereas we have been having our first training session Tuesday.
''I'm not trying to be a nark. I am not trying to do the wrong thing by any individual or person who is involved. All I am thinking about is my players as I do every time I coach a footy team … all I think about is the best possible scenario for my players and the individual but I am forced to say that.''