'Drug test the journalists': Wayne Bennett rips Queensland critics

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Pictured here, coach Wayne Bennett has a chuckle at Maroons Origin training.
Wayne Bennett has stuck the boot into Maroons critics ahead of State of Origin II. Pic: Getty

When the Daily Telegraph’s rugby league writer Dean Ritchie labeled the Maroons side the "weakest in 40 years" before the opening State of Origin game, it was never likely to end well.

While Queensland’s 18-14 victory in Game I may have come as a shock to some, the Maroons’ record of winning against the odds really shouldn't come as a surprise to any Blues fans after years of torment.

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Certainly coach Wayne Bennett couldn't resist the urge to stick the boot into media from south of the Queensland border when asked about it ahead of Wednesday night's second match in Sydney.

“Do they drug test journalists? I think they should if they’re making that kind of stuff up,” he said.

“I haven’t been reading it, I respect them [the players] enormously in the way they play. The state respects them [and] the way they played.

“If they can go out there and back it up win, lose or draw, no-one’s going to endorse those comments.

“It was probably someone who just wanted an easy story and just made it up on the run.”

Bennett was in fine form while speaking to reporters on Tuesday, ahead of Wednesday night's Game II at ANZ Stadium where the Maroons could clinch the series with another victory.

Queensland forward Josh Papalii celebrates his side's win in State of Origin I.
Queensland defied their critics with a stirring come-from-behind win in Game I. Pic: Getty

The Queensland coach confirmed that his side would run out unchanged from the 1-17 released at the start of the week, with Kurt Capewell given the nod after seemingly overcoming a groin complaint.

Prop Dunamis Lui comes into the starting side alongside Raiders teammate Josh Papalii in a new-look front row combination for the Queenslanders.

When asked what Papalii brings to his side, the master coach cracked up reporters by saying: "A mullet haircut.... which he’s been fortunate to get away with.

"There’s a calmness about him, there’s no fanfare and fuss. You don’t have to worry about him because you know he can get the job done," Bennett added.

Holmes warned ahead of Origin return

Another new face in the Maroons' starting lineup is Valentine Holmes - drafted in to replace the injured AJ Brimson at fullback.

While Holmes has the experience of being part of a winning Maroons side, Bennett has warned the Cowboys star not to overplay his hand on his Origin return.

Holmes will make his first Origin appearance since departing rugby league to attempt to forge a career in the NFL in 2018.

Game II will be Holmes' first time lining up in the No.1 jersey for his state after eight appearances on the wing.

The 25-year-old, who was suspended for last week's series opener in Adelaide, hasn't played since North Queensland's NRL season finale against Brisbane on September 24.

Valentine Holmes is seen here at Queensland Origin training.
Valentine Holmes is set to line up at fullback for the Maroons in Game II. Pic: Getty

With that in mind, Bennett is hopeful Holmes doesn't try too much, too soon upon his return to interstate football.

"We all know what a good athlete he is and we've seen him play some really good football as well but his problem is he hasn't played for six weeks," Bennett said.

"If he keeps it simple it'll be his best chance. If he tries to overplay stuff it won't help us."

Bennett believes if Holmes sticks to the template used by Brimson at Adelaide Oval, it'll go a long way to ensuring the Maroons fly back to Queensland on Wednesday night with the series all wrapped up.

"He just needs to be that guy out there that you need at fullback like AJ was last week," the veteran coach said.

"He played mistake-free and had a wonderful game and that's all you want him to do.

"The rest they can do pretty well if they get half an opportunity."

with AAP

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