Billy Slater man of the series despite missing a game, Maroons losing
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Billy Slater man of the series despite missing a game, Maroons losing

Even Billy Slater looked stunned when he heard the news. Man of the match? That was at least feasible, although Queensland had some good ones at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night.

But man of the series? Slater had barely stepped away from the microphone when he was called back. He wasn't the only one that was stunned when he was named the recipient of the Wally Lewis Medal.

Baffling call: Billy Slater was awarded the player of the series despite missing a game and the Maroons losing 2-1.

Baffling call: Billy Slater was awarded the player of the series despite missing a game and the Maroons losing 2-1.Credit:AAP

Even the man of the moment conceded he was taken aback by the twin honours.

‘‘I only played two games,’’ he said. ‘‘It was a little bit surprising. I’ve always been confident in what I can bring to a team, and that’s all I want to do. I felt like I did that tonight.

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"To have another Wally Lewis Medal in my last game, to lead the boys out as captain, it’s going to be very special.’’

He wasn’t the only one who was stunned by the decision.

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NSW had the series wrapped up by the time it came to Suncorp Stadium and a number of their leading lights looked a good bet to be given the honour of the best player over three games.

James Maloney, Boyd Cordner and James Tedesco came to mind. So did Damien Cook, the Rabbitohs hooker who was excellent again in the 18-12 defeat in Brisbane.

But few, if any, would have picked Slater, especially since he only played the second and third games of the series after missing game one with a hamstring injury. He would be the first player on a losing team to be given the medal, which was first awarded in 2004.

Darren Lockyer confirmed after the game that in the 3-2-1 polling system conducted for each team after each game, Slater received more points than any player who participated in all three matches.

Queensland lost the second and while Slater was good in game three, many thought Daly Cherry-Evans was the best on the park as he expertly guided the Maroons to a face-saving win.

The award is picked by Australian selectors Darren Lockyer and Laurie Daley, which input from Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga. They will surely be asked to explain their reasoning given the raft of outstanding performances from the team that won the interstate series.

Slater had earlier paid tribute to his team-mates and those that had helped shape his Origin career. It was hardly his fault that it would end in strange circumstances but questions have to be asked about the metrics that go into such a decision.

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Blues coach Brad Fittler said he couldn’t begrudge Slater leaving with the Wally Lewis Medal. But he doubted it was for his performances across the 2018 series.

‘‘I can live with the fact Billy takes the medal away,’’ Fittler said. ‘‘I don’t know if it was for the two games he played in this series. There were a few guys in our team I thought played very well. I can live with him taking away a medal. But it was more than for this series.’’

Fittler said he thought Tom Trbojevic was a standout for NSW before shutting down any further questions on the subject.

‘‘That’s enough on Billy. How about we leave that alone,’’ the NSW coach said.

Cordner was gracious on stage as he received the Shield in front of an away crowd, a tradition that must surely be condemned to the past after this year.

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He thanked his players, who defended like their lives depended on it, and said he was proud to have been part of a group that has helped breathe life back into the jersey and the rivalry.

"For you guys back home in NSW, over the years we haven't had too much success. But every year the support seems to get more and more and it goes to show what our state is all about," Cordner said.

"I'm proud to be a New South Welshman."

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