NSW make surprise switch on day of Origin I as Billy Slater smacks down Queensland legend

The Blues and Maroons will do battle in the State of Origin opener on Wednesday night.

Michael Maguire and the NSW Blues have done away with tradition and scrapped their game-day media commitments ahead of State of Origin I. The Blues and Maroons will go head-to-head on Wednesday night in Sydney in what promises to be a blockbuster Origin clash.

Maguire has already stamped his authority with a new-look NSW team, but he's also switched-up the gamne-day routine and cancelled media commitments on Wednesday. In previous years, the assistant coach of the Blues had always fronted the media on the morning of the game - which is usually Greg Alexander.

But that won't be happening under Maguire. Leading reporter Danny Weidler reported on Tuesday afternoon: "Blues have their game faces on early - they've cancelled their only media opportunity tomorrow - their assistant coach will not be speaking to media on game day. Michael Maguire is getting serious.

NSW and Queensland ahead of the State of Origin opener.
NSW have cancelled their game-day media commitments, while Billy Slater has smacked down Paul Vautin. Image: Getty

The Blues and Maroons coaches traditionally front the media together on the eve of Game I, but on Tuesday they did so separately. And there were plenty of burning questions directed at Maguire and Billy Slater.

Slater was quick to smack down claims from Queensland legend Paul Vautin about the make-up of his bench. Vautin was highly critical of the fact Slater only picked two running forwards on the pine alongside hooker Harry Grant and utility back Selwyn Cobbo.

“I’m not happy with the bench,” ‘Fatty’ Vautin said on 4BC radio last week. “I don’t understand why we’ve picked a winger-centre on the bench. I think we’re lacking another big forward. I’m not a selector, I’m never going to be a selector but I’m also entitled to my own opinion. Forwards win Origin games. They do all the hard work."

Selwyn Cobbo, pictured here ahead of State of Origin I.
Selwyn Cobbo at a Queensland training session ahead of State of Origin I.

But Slater wasn't having a bar of that sentiment on Tuesday. "I have spent more time watching our Queenslanders than any other person,” the coach said. “When you are in this position, you have to make decisions. If you are putting in the time and preparation, that gives you confidence in doing it - that’s my role.

“Every decision I make for this footy team, for this state, is for the footy team and for the state. That’s why I’m standing here, I’m here for Queensland, this is Queensland’s team. Sometimes there are tough decisions to make, but you make them for the good of the team and the state.

“There’s risks - it’s a game of footy - there’s risks everywhere, but they are calculated decisions. This is what we feel is best for our footy team. There doesn’t have to be an injury for Selwyn to be on the field, he will be out there, I’m looking forward to him getting his game on. He is a big body and a wonderful player, so he may pop up anywhere.”


And Maguire was also in a combative mood when probed about James Tedesco and Nicho Hynes. Maroons legend Gorden Tallis had earlier claimed he'd be "embarrassed" to be Tedesco walking back into the NSW team after he was initially axed for Dylan Edwards, while some have questioned whether Hynes has the mental toughness to handle Origin.

"I don't pay attention to anything (anyone has said)," Maguire said. "It's all about what we're doing in camp. That's how I've always done it.

"We've discussed how we want to set our game up, but Teddy will be able to express himself. He's got his own little flair that we'll bring into the game. And Teddy is a great professional. He just walked in and said, 'What are we doing?'. He's just adapted to that straightaway. Training yesterday he didn't miss a beat."

NSW Blues coach Michael Maguire.
NSW Blues coach Michael Maguire speaks to the media on Tuesday.

Maguire also dismissed concerns around Hynes and the 'scars' he might have after missing a crucial tackle in Origin I last year and then being axed. "That's history," Maguire said. "You're thrown into the deep end in a quick game, it's moving. If anything, it's a great experience for him.

"Everyone faces a little bit (of adversity) in their career and he's no different. He's prepared really well. And he knows his role coming into this game. So I don't look at (last year)."

with AAP