Raiders Coach Ricky Stuart. Photo: Jay Cronan
Former Blues Origin coach Ricky Stuart has taken a swipe at NRL clubs withdrawing players from this weekend's representative fixtures for NSW, declaring "it's why Queensland have got a better culture than us".
Stuart said the NRL needed to make representative duty mandatory for the under-20s and City-Country concepts or scrap them.
Stuart's comments build on the sentiments of NSW Origin coach Laurie Daley who was frustrated when Wests Tigers and South Sydney withdrew uninjured players, Luke Brooks and Alex Johnston respectively, from Saturday's under-20s Origin match.
Stuart's Canberra Raiders will have four representatives in the Queensland under-20s team, including NRL star Anthony Milford, urged to play by Maroons coach Mal Meninga.
"It's why Queensland have got a better culture than us, because our [NSW] clubs have no care, responsibility or respect about what's happening in Origin football,'' Stuart said.
"It's all about their clubs. I'm a bit different, I'm a passionate NSW ex-player and coach who wishes we had the same attitude as Queensland in regards to it all starting at the grassroots.
"By not letting your players play at the under-20s level, it disrespects the current concept of under-20s football and I also think it's disrespectful to the players who should be showing the [Origin] coaches they want to play for their state.
"Look at Milford, he's showing Mal Meninga he wants to play for Queensland."
The Raiders came under scrutiny when captain Terry Campese withdrew from playing for Italy in last year's World Cup to rest his chronic knee injuries, although Campese insists it was his final decision.
Stuart said he wanted more of his Raiders players experiencing representative football because it would encourage player development at the club. The Raiders have four players in the NSW Country camp this week - Jack Wighton, Paul Vaughan, Josh McCrone and Shaun Fensom.
Fensom was only called in late as 18th man after a spate of injury withdrawals, but Stuart predicted he was a future Blues representative.
"I think Shaun Fensom will play Origin one day,'' Stuart said. "I think I've got the credibility to say that in regards to being an Origin coach. With my current squad, I want as many of my [Raiders] players to gain representative experience - against the best players though.
"Next year I can't see many players being allowed to play [20s or City-Country] with the attitude clubs have taken this year. Head coaches are most at risk because you've got your best players playing rep football. The league have got to say it's compulsory, otherwise we may as well do away with it.
"I want my players to develop into representative footballers. I want them playing Origin and international football because it makes them and my club team better.
"Teams that win the competition usually have four or five representative footballers, so I'm pushing the development of all our players to try and play Origin football."
Stuart's two assistant coaches at Canberra, Dean Pay and Matt Parish, have also been released from Raiders duties this week to coach NSW under-20s and Samoa respectively.
Pay, who is trying to coach NSW to a third consecutive victory against Queensland at under-20s level, said he was disappointed as coach and a former Blues player.
"I think we're missing the point. When you get the chance to play for NSW, you should be taking it. The kids that have been pulled out, they'd be busting to play, it's not their fault,'' Pay said.
"The first year I had [Roosters backrower] Boyd Cordner, now he's playing in a Test match on Friday night [for Australia]. This under-20s game is a progression. This is where we start talking about our Origin experiences, I think it's crucial for them."