Slater unfazed by critics over man of the series award
Billy Slater has shrugged off criticism about the controversial decision to name him the player of the State of Origin series.
NSW coach Brad Fittler and five-eighth James Maloney expressed their surprise with the decision to overlook a Blues player in favour of Billy Slater as the Wally Lewis Medalist while former players and social media lit up with criticism over the decision.
"You take it with a grain of salt," Slater said on Thursday morning when asked about the negative feedback.
"When you get an award like that you are very humbled."
On Wednesday night, Slater became the first player in a series-losing team to win the Wally Lewis Medal since its inception in 2004 – an honour voted on by Australian coach Mal Meninga, and his selectors Laurie Daley and Darren Lockyer.
All three on the judging panel give points (one to four) to who they believe were the best four players in each game - with four being the best.
A player is capable of receiving a maximum of 12 points per game, meaning Slater had a maximum of 24 points to collect in his two matches.
The announcement has divided opinion. Slater was named player of the series despite only featuring in two of those games – one of which Queensland lost – and appeared to be surprised by the honour.
"He played good footy but there are a lot of guys in our team who deserved it," Maloney said.
"It is what it is but at the end of the day we got the shield. I don't think anyone ever plays the sport for individual honours but there were a lot of deserving guys in our side who could have got it. I think Teddy was really good. I thought Tom Trbojevic was outstanding.
"There's a whole heap of guys that put in massive performances for us. There's no doubt Bill was a real key player in Queensland's performance but at the end of the day we won the series. You'd think they probably could have found a deserving recipient in our team but it is what it is."
Slater, who was also announced as the man of the match in his 31st and final game of State of Origin at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday night, got the medal despite NSW's James Tedesco, James Maloney, Damien Cook, Jake Trbojevic, Tom Trbojevic and Boyd Cordner all mounting strong cases throughout the three games.
"I can live with the fact that Billy takes the medal away," Fittler said.
"He's been one of our great State of Origin players. I don't know if it was for the two game in this series, I don't know ... there's a few players in our team I would have chosen ahead of Billy in this series but he's been a brilliant player for the sport and for State of Origin, so I can live with him taking away the medal. But it was for more than this series.
"Tom Trbojevic was pretty outstanding across the three games. He was my pick."
Former NSW captain Paul Gallen echoed the sentiment of most, stunned that a Blues player wasn't chosen.
"He was the difference for them in game two," Gallen told Channel 9 of Slater.
"I can't help but feel sorry for a NSW player not to win the Wally Lewis Medal. They won the series. Someone like Boyd Cordner thoroughly deserved it. He was the best forward on the field in game one.
"Cordner was man of the match in game two and I thought he played well tonight — 80 minutes in those two games. I'm a little bit disappointed for a Blues player not to win it.".