Queensland's Christian Welch says there is no defending teammate Jai Arrow after his biosecurity breach but he believes the forward will one day be welcomed back by the Maroons.
Welch was left to answer questions about Arrow after Maroons coach Paul Green produced footwork rarely seen by the outclassed Maroons this year.
He sidestepped media on Friday by refusing to answer questions after delivering a 40-word statement on Arrow's exit just days before Wednesday's State of Origin game three dead rubber.
Queensland issued a release on Thursday night confirming that Arrow had left camp and faced a two-game ban and $35,000 fine for bringing an "unregistered guest" into the Maroons' Gold Coast team hotel.
But hopes of a follow-up from Green at Maroons training on Friday were quickly dashed after he briefly addressed the incident before walking off.
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"With regards to the Jai Arrow incident, the matter is in the relative authority's hands and hasn't been resolved as yet so we won't be making any further comment at this stage," Green said.
"For any inquiries please contact the NRL. Thanks."
Green then made a quick exit, ignoring a reporter who asked: "What else is there to resolve? He's been booted out already."
It left Welch to take arguably one of the toughest hit-ups by a Queensland forward this series after being wheeled out in front of a media pack with still plenty of questions to ask.
Welch was at first sheepish when asked to comment on Arrow after the Melbourne Storm forward was himself stood down last September for a COVID-19 protocol breach for inviting a guest to the NRL team's hotel.
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But Welch conceded there was no excuse for Arrow's actions and said he wouldn't be surprised if questions were asked about the Maroons team culture.
However, he said teammates still respected Arrow and believed the South Sydney forward would be back in the Maroons camp one day.
"It has been pretty tough on the group, particularly being 2-0 down and trying to turn things around in game three and deliver for the people of Queensland," Welch said of Arrow's departure.
"I understand he [Arrow] has made a bad mistake. I did the same thing last year in the Melbourne Storm bubble.
"He understands he has made a really poor decision that has affected not only himself but the team.
"He is obviously hurting at the moment over his actions. He knows he has let everyone down.
"Obviously we would love for Jai to still be here. It's disappointing but as I said I did the same thing last year, made a stupid decision.
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"[But] I think everyone still respects Jai. He is one of those guys you love playing footy with - that won't change despite a pretty silly decision."
Arrow's club coach and 2020 Maroons Origin coach Wayne Bennett said his player will "learn an invaluable lesson" from an error of judgement.
Speaking after South Sydney’s 46-18 thrashing of the Cowboys in Newcastle on Friday night, when asked if he was disappointed by Arrow’s actions, Bennett said: "I’m not proud of what he did but they’re young men, and he’s obviously going to learn an invaluable lesson from it".
Arrow's exit is another blow for a Queensland outfit trying to stop a rampant NSW claiming their first whitewash in 21 years.
They suffered their worst loss (50-6) in game one before the Blues iced their third series win in four years by holding the Maroons scoreless at Suncorp Stadium for the first time (26-0) in Origin II.
Off the field, Queensland have endured everything from injuries and illness to an unprecedented eligibility drama over Ronaldo Mulitalo amid reports questioning their team culture under rookie Maroons mentor Green.
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Welch admitted Arrow's actions weren't a good look amid speculation swirling around the embattled Maroons but insisted they had not lost their way and vowed to regain the public's trust.
"There's no defending what has happened, it's not good," Welch said.
"We've had a tough series but go back 12 months and talk about the culture of the Maroons and it is pretty much the same staff, playing group.
"Greeny has come in but otherwise it is pretty much identical to the group that is here [that won the 2020 Origin series].
"Things like this don't augur well for the way you are perceived, and getting towelled up in games of rugby league doesn't help either to be honest."
Asked why state governments should continue to provide exemptions for the NRL despite the breaches, Welch said: "It's a good question.
"Specifically NRL male players really need to lift our game in terms of abiding by COVID rules and thinking we are above the average man and woman.
"It is something we need to get a hold of as a playing group across the NRL because it has done a lot of damage.
"If we are being realistic about it, it could jeopardise the game.
"I know we have had some recent incidents but the majority of players - about 500-plus NRL players - are doing the right thing the majority of the time."
Meanwhile, Brisbane's Thomas Flegler is tipped to step up and make his Origin debut in Arrow's absence.
"I am not sure of the final make-up of the team but he [Flegler] is a good physical forward who would be really strong for us," Welch said.
"If Tom comes in for a debut I would be so pumped for him."