Maroons bring in refs to get edge on Blues
Queensland have turned the heat up on NSW by enlisting two NRL referees to adjudicate an opposed session in camp at Sanctuary Cove.
Rising NRL referee Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski and 229-game veteran Alan Shortall were on hand to put the Maroons through their paces on Sunday against the Queensland under 18 team.
Maroons stars Michael Morgan and Ben Hunt said their presence was a massive boost ahead of the Holden State of Origin series opener at the MCG on Wednesday night.
No one could recall Queensland ever welcoming NRL referees into camp and Morgan enjoyed the "game-like" conditions more than the usual routine of having Allan Langer as their whistle-blower.
There has been much speculation about whether the series-opener will be refereed according to so-called "Origin rules" or the more strict letter of the law mode that exists in the NRL these days. Morgan would like a free-flowing approach but said the Maroons were ready for either situation.
"They helped us get a bit of game-flow going and it is a bit easier than having Alf [Langer] ref," Morgan said.
"They know what to look for and it is a bit easier with them setting the 10 metres. You want to practice the way you play.
"With the refs' talk we are getting the feedback at training we would in a game. With the two referees, one in the pocket and one in the line, it is more game-like.
"Hopefully it is a more free-flowing game. That is what is Origin is known for, a fast and up-tempo game. It would be nice if it was but I'm not too sure how it is going to be refereed. If both sides are disciplined I am sure we will have a free-flowing game."
Hunt said the timing of the two referees being in camp was perfect.
"They pulled us up on a few things today," he said.
"It was really good to get them into training and pick up on the things you aren't doing right at training. It helps you going into the game.
"It was the same thing that has been happening in the NRL this year, staying onside and no silly things in the ruck. Just the general penalties that have been going on in the NRL this year.
"As long as the refs are consistent and doing their job, we just have to play our game."
Morgan is ready to embrace the utility role that has been his staple in the Origin arena.
"It is a role I am used to now," he said.
"You don't know what is coming, in that it depends how the game goes. I have trained in a few positions this week and if all things go well I'd say I'll go on in and around the middle again as I have most times.
"When I get on I expect myself to bring a bit of energy and variety around the ruck and give us a few different options. At times I will play as another half and hopefully, I can help out Cam [Munster] and Ben [Hunt]."
Morgan finished the 2017 season on a high after inspiring the Cowboys to a grand final appearance. This year hasn't gone as smoothly with early-season injuries and the Cowboys lacklustre start to their campaign, but Morgan said he had left all that behind him in Maroons camp.
"I wanted to come in with a fresh mindset and leave what has happened at club footy and enjoy the week," he said.
Witness Australia's greatest sporting rivalry when Origin comes to the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Wednesday, June 6. Bronze tickets available from $49 here.