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Billy Slater cops fresh backlash over staggering move towards Queensland fans before Origin 3

Slater has defended the eye-opening call from his Queensland Origin squad.

Queensland coach Billy Slater has defended his side's move to cancel a traditional State of Origin media day, after copping backlash over the move in the lead-up to the series decider. Both teams normally give the media and fans extensive access to their training sessions and players on the first Monday after the Origin teams are announced but Slater and the Maroons shut up shop in Queensland on Monday.

The Maroons held the traditional media days before Games 1 and 2 but Slater made the call to scrap the planned event on Monday, citing logistical issues around some of his players arriving late in camp. And the move prompted criticism of the Maroons coach from south of the border after many pointed out that former NSW coach Brad Fittler was often slammed for his indifferent attitude towards the media.

Billy Slater has defended the decision to cancel a traditional Maroons media day after the QLD coach copped backlash for the move. Pic: Getty
Billy Slater has defended the decision to cancel a traditional Maroons media day after the QLD coach copped backlash for the move. Pic: Getty

The Australian’s Brent Read said while he didn't "necessarily like" the move from Slater and the Maroons, he understood Queensland's decision to channel their complete focus onto preparations for Game 3. “They’re saying they’re doing that because they’re nailing down and focusing on winning Origin 3... I don’t necessarily like it but that’s what Billy has decided to do," Read said.

“I don’t think Freddy closed things down like this. He still had the open media session. Just the atmosphere around it was a bit more us against him.” Slater did speak to media during a press conference on Monday, where he described the backlash against the Maroons as "unfair". He pointed out that Queensland have always been generous in providing media and fans with access to the players and explained that the late arrivals of several players to Maroons camp ultimately forced their hand.

“I think you guys know the access to our players,” Slater said on Monday. “We don’t get our full squad together until mid-afternoon. They’ve got some commercial arrangements with the QRL that they need to fulfil and we’ve got to get some footy stuff done.

“You’ll have access to the majority of the players throughout the the 10-day camp. We saw out at out at Toowoomba with 8,000 people turning up... what we give to the people of Queensland, the access we give to to our players - you guys see that. You get to come down to Sanctuary Cove and watch our training sessions so I feel the access is is great.

Seen here, Maroons coach Billy Slater and Reece Walsh in QLD Origin camp.
Maroons coach Billy Slater says his QLD squad is focusing on nailing its preparation for the State of Origin decider on July 17. Pic: Getty

“There’s some circumstances around players coming into camp at different stages today, that 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 game. So I don’t think you read into it too much, I think it’s a little bit unfair.”

Slater denied that cancelling Monday's media event had anything to do with his side's performance in the Game 2 thrashing by the Blues. “No, absolutely not. Absolutely not,” Slater said when asked if the media commitments were a distraction for his stars. “Players talking to media was certainly not a factor in the performance from Game 2. That’s the first time I’ve thought of that when you’ve asked that question.”

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NSW coach Michael Maguire didn't quite stick the boot into Slater's Maroons over their media snub, but reaffirmed the Blues' commitment to their own fans. “Yeah okay, that’s probably the path they have gone down. What I have learnt in this role that the Origin team, it’s really about the people,” Maguire said in response to Queensland's media snub.

“It’s the people’s team. I have definitely felt that in the enormity of the role and everywhere you go around NSW, the support of the fans and the people... The fans in that first game they turned out in droves, we weren’t quite able to get the result we were after, but the effort the boys showed was excellent. Then they took that into the next camp and we will take it into this one, and we are carrying them with us.”