Penalty toll up to players: Origin coaches

Scott Bailey

Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters have told their players the onus is on them to avoid a penalty-riddled State of Origin series opener at the MCG on Wednesday night.

As promised by NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg in April, both coaches have been told the crackdown from the start of the season will carry into the Origin arena.

That will include a heavy focus on play-the-balls, the ruck and offsides, as well as regular use of the sin-bin if penalties persist.

Penalties are up by around 40 per cent this year across the NRL to more than 17 per game - a telling statistic given there were only 25 blown across the whole three-game Origin series last year.

Maroons coach Walters said it would be solely on his players to ensure the rise didn't translate into a stop-start Origin.

"Both Brad and myself have had some conversations and meetings with the referees to how it's going to be adjudicated," Walters said at the pre-match media conference on Monday.

"We expect the referees to be no different to what they've been doing and our team needs to be disciplined from a Queensland point of view.

"If you're not disciplined you don't win Origin."

It's also the same message south of the border, where Fittler said it was irrelevant whether he wanted a free-flowing game.

"We asked our players to be disciplined," he said.

"That's why they're at this level, to show discipline under fatigue and when there is pressure on."

Both coaches have taken new measures to counteract the crackdown in camp this week.

Fittler had former NRL referee Luke Phillips officiating in each of his sessions, just as he did in Lebanon's run to last year's Rugby League World Cup finals.

Walters also welcomed NRL referees Alan Shortall and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski to their final run on the Gold Coast on Sunday, marking the first time they've ever had NRL officials in camp.

The one saving grace for both sides could also come in the appointments.

Gerard Sutton has had the least penalties blown in his games all year with 13.9, while Ashley Klein also falls in slightly below the season average with 17.58.