They were the biggest pre-State of Origin talking point, but the NRL’s referees had their quietest game all year in the series opener at the MCG.
Now, commentator and league great Phil Gould wants to see the same thing every week in the national club competition.
Just a combined five penalties were blown across the Blues’ 22-12 win – with none coming in the final 53 minutes – 12 less than the NRL season average of 17.
NSW weren’t penalised for the final 76 minutes of the match. James Maloney was the sole offender after being pinged for offside in just the fourth minute.
It meant plenty of ball in play and a real battle of attrition, with the only stoppages at the MCG in the second half coming for tries, bunker calls and the odd error.
While Gould welcomed the free-flowing nature of the spectacle as a result of the reduction in stoppages due to penalties, he questioned why it wasn’t the same in the NRL.
“Why can’t we have that every week?” Gould said on the Channel 9 broadcast.
“Why can’t we have that every week at every club game? That’s football.
“They (referees) just can’t get it through their bone heads of what football really is.”
Retired Maroons skipper Cam Smith agreed with Gould that fewer penalties made for a more enjoyable viewing experience.
“It makes for a better spectacle,” Smith said.
“It’d be great for the game to see it go that way.
“It makes for a great game for the players, but most importantly for the fans watching it.
“The players get to play the match out, not the officials.”
Queensland coach Kevin Walters also praised the officials after the match, despite a few contentious decisions going against his side.
“I thought they were good, I thought they were really good,” Walters said of the officials.
“We thought there might have been a few more penalties, but 4-1, that’s the way it goes at Origin.
“We’ve probably good to look at ourselves there and get better for Origin II.”
Realistically, there weren’t a lot of controversial moments for the referees to rule on in the series opener.
Dane Gagai fumed after he was ruled to have dropped the ball in an Angus Crichton tackle in the 46th minute when it appeared the error may have been assisted by a Blues hand.
Queensland led 12-8 at the time, but by their next play-the-ball trailed 18-12.
“Those little calls go your way and go against you,” Walters said.
“On this occasion it could’ve gone either way, It went NSW’s way and then we just weren’t quite good enough to defend that set.”
Fans also fumed over the Josh Addo-Carr try late in the second half that sealed the win for the Blues.
Like his Maroons counterpart, Blues coach Brad Fittler thought the officials handled the series opener well.
“I don’t think there were many things the referees had to rule on.
“There was the Gagai one and the Maloney forward pass was a 50-50 call against us and they scored just after that.
“Outside that I think it was pretty clear-cut. There wasn’t many questionable decisions. They did a good job.”