NSW coach Brad Fittler still hasn’t come to terms with how Billy Slater could have been named man of the series in a losing State of Origin side.
Slater became the first player to claim the medal from the losing side of an Origin series when he was awarded the honour after Queensland’s game three win on Wednesday.
Slater was out injured in the opener but was arguably the Maroons’ best upon his return in game two and again in the final match.
Mal Meninga, Darren Lockyer and Laurie Daley voted on a 4-3-2-1 basis for their best players in each game.
However it seems the even spread of contributors in the NSW team counted against the series winners, with Lockyer previously revealing Slater won by a big margin.
Fittler hadn’t spoken at length about the controversial issue until Sunday on the NRL Footy Show.
With Lockyer on the panel, Freddy seemed rather sceptical of how the selectors came to their decisions.
“I couldn’t understand why Billy was so far ahead (in the votes),” Fittler said.
“Considering Billy is an attacking player and what he does to a team is create numbers … in the second game they had the opportunity with 12 (NSW) players in the last 10 minutes to win the game. That’s what Billy does, Billy should have taken control then.
“To be the best player, to be that far ahead on points, that’s why I couldn’t understand why (James) Tedesco, (Damien) Cook, maybe Tom Trbojevic, James Maloney … Billy had that opportunity in game two and didn’t take it, that’s why I couldn’t understand how he had so many points.
“Outside that it’s all opinion, it’s good debate.
“I think he had a great game, and his start to the game was excellent and really got them on the front foot and gave them the zip they needed.
“But to not nail the end, I couldn’t understand how he got so many points in game two that had him so far in front of everyone else.”
Lockyer admitted the voting system was probably flawed, and is expecting changes when it is reviewed by the NRL.
“Obviously the system can be better and it’s being reviewed, there will be changes made that will get a better outcome,” he said.
“I think the points system works for a (man of the match) … then you have to step aside from game three and then look at the series overall, and between the three of us decide who we think has been the most influential and best player across the series.
“It’s been very controversial and I’m sure there will be tweaks made.”
Origin Merit Team: Slater gets one over Tedesco again
Meanwhile, Slater has been named at fullback in Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga’s State of Origin Merit Team, relegating Tedesco to the bench.
The Origin Merit Team proved to a clear guide to Meninga’s selections for Australia last year, with 14 of the 17 later chosen in his World Cup squad.
However Slater has now retired from representative football and won’t be available for end-of-year selection, opening the door for a battle between Tedesco and Kalyn Ponga for the No.1 jersey.
Damien Cook is in the box seat to take Cameron Smith’s No.9 jersey as NSW are set to be rewarded for their series triumph by dominating national selection.
Cook was named as one of 12 Blues – with just five Queenslanders – after their rookie-laden side claimed just their second series win in 13 years.
Also included were fellow Blues Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Tedesco, Jack de Belin and Paul Vaughan – all of whom are also yet to play for Australia.
Players must have played in at least two of the Origin matches to be picked in the team.
Notably veteran Blues five eighth James Maloney was named at halfback with Queensland’s Cameron Munster in the No.6 jersey.
Only four players remain from last year’s winning Kangaroos’ World Cup final side – David Klemmer, Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell and Josh McGuire.
Queensland’s Matt Gillett also didn’t feature in the Origin series, but would be likely to come back into the Kangaroos’ side assuming he returns to form when he recovers from a neck injury.
Jordan McLean, Reagan Campbell-Gillard and Michael Morgan are also in similar positions due to injury, while Slater, McGuire, Cordner, Maloney, Tedesco and Jake Trbojevic are the only players to earn merit selection in back-to-back years.
2018 Kangaroos Merit Team (1-17): Billy Slater, Tom Trbojevic, Greg Inglis, Latrell Mitchell, Josh Addo-Carr, Cameron Munster, James Maloney, David Klemmer, Damien Cook, Josh McGuire, , Boyd Cordner, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic. Interchange: James Tedesco, Jack de Belin, Josh Papalii, Paul Vaughan.