Paul Gallen in NSW camp ahead of the opening match of the 2014 Holden State of Origin series. Copyright: NRL Photos.
Inspirational New South Wales skipper Paul Gallen says he can only laugh at the fallout from a passing joke he made at the team announcement function at the Hilton in Sydney last Tuesday.
Explaining to attendees the passion behind Origin, Gallen said there is 'genuine hatred' between the two teams, before making a passing reference to Queenslanders as 'two-heads'.
The comment made headlines in both states and has now led to a return spray from Queensland legend Wally Lewis, who was reported in Queensland's Courier Mail calling Gallen disrespectful, then adding New South Welshman 'don't get' Origin.
Gallen told reporters he could only laugh at the fallout, before taking a return swipe at Lewis.
"Wally's entitled to his opinion; I'm not quite sure what his definition of not ridiculing NSW players is when I assume that's what he's trying to do today to me," Gallen said,
"He obviously didn't see the article in last week's paper calling our two halfbacks duds. But this is fun, this is part of the build up of Origin, this is what my comments were aimed at last week. I was trying to explain to that room [at the Hilton for the team announcement] how fanatical Queensland people are and how much they get behind this whole concept.
"When you walk the streets they let you know about it, as do the former players. It's part of the build up."
He said he wasn't concerned at Lewis's comments, saying they hold "little weight" and describing them as a "non-issue".
"I honestly laugh at it, I cannot believe the amount of turmoil [the two-heads comment] has caused. I was at a luncheon where people have paid thousands of dollars to be there and they don't want the yes/no answers that certain rugby league players give.
"I was trying to give them an insight, I was probably giving the Queenslanders a rap on how much they get behind their team. It was a joke, I said it laughing and I just laugh at the amount people talk about it."
He said the Blues have had a welcoming reception since they landed in Queensland on Sunday afternoon, with a small crowd of mostly Blues supporters welcoming them on the tarmac and lining up for photos.
"One couple even said 'we're Queenslanders but we love you' so that was interesting!" Gallen laughed.
"I'm sure it'll be different today when I head down the mall. I'll get out and about – you've got to embrace it. Someone like me, I don't have many opportunities left. This is all part of Origin, this is all part of the build up, this is what makes the spectacle so great. If people didn't get behind it and watch it it wouldn't be going any more."