A State of Origin advertising campaign featuring Paul Gallen has been abandoned amid fears this year's series will be tarnished by the drugs scandal at Cronulla.
Carlton and United Breweries had originally planned to use Gallen as a focal point in its VB advertising campaign for the interstate matches. However, those plans have been scrapped and the Sharks captain has been replaced by another CUB ambassador, Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah.
There were suggestions on Wednesday night that the brewer had already shot a $750,000 campaign, but opted for another figurehead, Farah, who will now appear with opposing Queensland hooker Cameron Smith in the promotional material.
Gallen reportedly stepped down from the role to ensure the marquee league event wasn't tarnished by developments at the Sharks. However, it's understood the brewery giant had serious concerns about being linked to the growing scandal.
''VB can use whoever they like, they are a major sponsor of ours,'' NSWRL boss Geoff Carr said. ''We encourage our players to have a commercial relationship with them and whatever VB wants to do is up to them. I would imagine that Paul Gallen would continue to be an ambassador with them.''
NRL marketing manager Paul Kind was unavailable for comment.
Carr said it was ''business as usual'' for NSW officials, even with the prospect of drugs sanctions being handed to players during the Origin period.
A statement from VB suggested the decision to part ways with Gallen may only be temporary. ''VB has a proud long-term relationship with the NRL and the NSW Blues,'' the statement said. ''We have a number of ambassadors that we use to bring our sponsorships to life including the great Paul Gallen.
''Paul is a fantastic ambassador of ours, who we use across a number of activities and we will continue to do so.''
With the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority interview process likely to be completed within four to six weeks, the NRL might be in a position to begin issuing infraction notices in the lead-up to, or during, this year's Origin series.