Slater rejects claims he’s rattled ahead of decider

Scott Bailey and Joel Gould |

Billy Slater has rejected claims he is rattled ahead of State of Origin III, after breaking with tradition and pulling Queensland players from media interviews ahead of the decider.

Maroons management made the call to not have their players conduct one-on-one interviews in a full-squad media session, as is tradition in Origin camps.

Players will still be available throughout the camp, with a limited number per day.

NSW conducted their own media day on Monday, making all 17 players available along with reserves Matt Burton and the dropped Haumole Olakau’atu.

Slater has traditionally been the more open of the two coaches in this year’s series, with Michael Maguire a reluctant media performer throughout his time in the NRL.

But Queensland have opted to change tack for the decider, despite having hosting rights for Origin III.

Regardless, Slater rejected any suggestion he was rattled.

“I am feeling good,” Slater said. 

“I am happy and I am looking forward to it. I was as disappointed as anyone after game two but time heals everything.”

Slater was adamant his decision to pull players from media was not performance-related, and had no bearing on their worst-ever first half of a game in Origin history in Melbourne.

Instead the former Maroons fullback labelled criticism of access as unfair, pointing to the fact reporters are not allowed to stay beyond the first 15 minutes of NSW training sessions.

“You guys know the access to our players. We don’t get our full squad together until mid-afternoon today,” Slater said. 

“They have got some commercial arrangements with the QRL they need to fulfil and we have got to get some footy stuff done. 

“You will have access to the majority of the players throughout the 10-day camp.

“We saw (at the fan day before game two) out at Toowoomba with 8000 people turning up what we give to the people of Queensland and the access we give to our players. 

“You guys see that. You get to come down to Sanctuary Cove and watch our training sessions. I feel the access is great. 

“We couldn’t quite get everyone available but we do everything possible to get the voices of our players out to the people watching our games.”

“I don’t think you should read into it too much.”

Blues coach Maguire said on Monday he was unsure if the Maroons were feeling the heat, but made clear his side was a team of the NSW people.

“I don’t know the reasons why they’re (not doing a media day), but with the enormity of what the Origin teams means to people, it’s the people’s team,” Maguire said.

“We have spoken a lot about what this blue jersey means and what the people mean. 

“Wherever you go people are talking about this team. It’s really nice to see, where over the years it has probably gone up and down at times.”