McQueen: Luke's GF suspension a 'travesty'
It's grand final night, in the Rabbitohs sheds roughly an hour after 17 blokes wearing cardinal and myrtle ended a 43-year long title drought, and back-rower Chris McQueen is still pretty emotional as he shares a beer with a couple of mates.
But he still poses for photos with the fans who have been allowed into the large warm-up room adjacent to the dressing room, and makes time to chat to any reporter who wanders up to him with a dictaphone.
He also has, prominently displayed on his wrist tape, the word 'Bully'.
For those that don't know, Bully is the nickname of long-serving South Sydney hooker Issac Luke, who was present at what would have been the biggest game of his rugby league career but wasn't allowed to take part due to a grade one dangerous throw charge resulting from a tackle on Rooster Sonny Bill Williams a week earlier.
Luke's loading and carry-over points from a chicken wing tackle earlier in the season meant an early plea to the charge – which with a clean record would have downgraded the penalty from 125 points to 93, making him free to play – resulted in an automatic ban unless he successfully defeated the charge at the judiciary. The club tried its best, but was unsuccessful.
"He was an inspiration for us," McQueen tells NRL.com when asked about that word in black texta on his wrist tape.
"I still don't understand the decision made by people that will never ever think about that decision again, they'll walk away from that and wipe their hands of it but that will eat at him for the rest of his life.
"To make that decision that he can't play [in a grand final]... I still don't understand it."
McQueen is adamant the current system of incorporating loading and carry-over points, which can make the difference between someone missing a grand final for an identical offence to one whereby someone else would be free to play, needs to be reassessed.
"They have to take a look at [the carry over points]; it was a minor offence, Sonny Bill wasn't hurt at all, he walked away, he'll be off playing rugby union next week but for the rest of Issac's life he has to look back at the time he didn't get to play in a grand final. They have to look at that.
"For minor offences, maybe it carries over to the start of the following year but to take a grand final away from someone, especially someone that's been at this club and given blood sweat and tears for this club, to tell him that he can't play a grand final – I disagree with that."
McQueen says Luke, who was given a premiership ring by his coach Michael Maguire after the win, shrugged off his personal disappointment to provide great support for the team throughout the week.
"As soon as it happened he said it's bigger than just him, it's about the boys and about the club, and that's a credit to him. He's obviously a very humble man. But for the rest of his life he has to look back to the time South Sydney won the grand final and he wasn't able to play and I just think that's a travesty."
McQueen joined the club from Queensland Cup in 2008 before making his NRL debut in 2009, and has been at the club almost as long as Luke, who made his NRL debut for the Rabbitohs in 2007. In that time the two have formed a close bond, according to McQueen.
"I've been here for six years – I look around the club, there's probably four or five people that have been here longer than me. We've been friends for a long time, we've been teammates for a long time, he's definitely someone I'm close to."