Mal Meninga's task of bringing the Kangaroos together for the end-of-year Four Nations tournament in England looms as his greatest challenge with Maroons forward Corey Parker declaring that the bad blood between Queensland and New South Wales is at an 'all-time high'.
Recalling the days of the 1985 Kangaroos tour of New Zealand when then New South Wales and Australia coach Terry Fearnley heightened the state divide with some Blues-centric selection changes for the third Test, Meninga will have on his hands a team with simmering tensions lying underneath.
A positive for Meninga is that when the Four Nations squad is announced later in the year it will likely be dominated by the Origin victorious Maroons but Parker expects the bad blood that surfaced at the end of Game Three to stay at boiling point until Game One at Suncorp Stadium next year.
State loyalties in Kangaroos camp were a major talking point following the October Test of 2012 when the NSW players were reportedly upset that the Queensland players had sang the Maroons' victory song in celebrations after the win over the Kiwis and now Parker has told Sky Sports Radio's Big Sports Breakfast program that the feeling between the two camps is now at its worst.
"Absolutely, I do. If you're looking for motivation and things to draw on for next year, that's all been set in stone," Parker said when asked whether the bad blood between the teams was at an all-time high.
"There were plenty of talking points to come out of that game and plenty of motivation for next year.
"There's certainly going to be some feeling going into next year's series."
The source of much of the disappointment in the Queensland camp centred around the fact that the Blues walked away as Maroons captain Cameron Smith collected the State of Origin shield and made his acceptance speech in the centre of ANZ Stadium.
NSW players responded afterwards by suggesting that the sledging by Queensland during the game – particularly of skipper Paul Gallen – had been disrespectful itself but Parker was adamant that the Maroons expected no superior treatment as a result of their success.
"We're very much equals but put that aside and there's a thing called sportsmanship," Parker said.
"That's what aggravated most Queenslanders through that game, particularly at the end of the game when there was an awards ceremony on.
"I do feel that there's that bad blood if you want to use that word between the two teams.
"There's going to be enough motivation for the next few Series and then something might pop up next year and we'll be looking for something more again."
Parker himself got caught up in the wild scenes that unfolded after Michael Jennings scored the match-winning try for NSW in the final minute with Blues five-eighth James Maloney going out of his way to give the retiring Queensland forward a nudge as his teammates celebrated.
"I think he was just fired up that they'd won the game and he was letting me know that," said Parker, whose Origin career finished with 19 caps for Queensland.
"I just said to him, 'You're better than that.' That was about it.
"If you watch that try back and look at the circumstances that unfolded, it was quite funny.
"I wasn't anywhere near it and he made a bit of a beeline to inform me that they had just won the game. He then skedaddled off around the huddle while I was in hot pursuit and while this was happening Aaron Woods came over the top and missed everyone and the man who saved the moment, Michael Jennings, was off on his own."
This article first appeared on NRL.com
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