As is the case at the conclusion of the State of Origin series every year, the Board of NSWRL will conduct a full review of all aspects of the 2017 State of Origin series. This will occur in the coming months and in accordance with the usual time periods which the Board sets aside for such tasks. However, in light of the matters which have been raised publicly during the course of this week, the Board feels compelled to urgently correct the record regarding a number of inaccurate assertions which have been made and which are highly damaging to NSWRL and to a number of people within our organisation.
The first assertion is that Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson were drunk at the Lennox Point Hotel on the Friday prior to State of Origin 3, that they were behaving like ‘clowns’ and that they were so badly affected by alcohol that they were hidden from the press the following morning in a cover-up by NSWRL. However, on the basis of a number of independent accounts of the circumstances, the NSWRL Board is satisfied that the players were not drunk, they were not acting like ‘clowns’ and they were not so affected by alcohol that they were ‘hidden’ the following morning in a cover-up. On the contrary, the pair trained at 10am the following morning in full view of the media contingent. They trained strongly.
The second assertion is that on the morning of State of Origin 3, Laurie Daley had a conversation with Andrew Fifita in which Laurie advised Andrew Fifita that he would be starting the match from the bench. It is asserted that Andrew Fifita’s reaction to this news was so strongly negative that Laurie Daley changed his mind and reinstated him to the starting line-up. As you would expect, a coach and his players regularly discuss on-field tactical options and all manner of off field issues as well. Laurie had conversations of these types with Andrew during the course of the camp. However, it is entirely false to suggest that on the morning of the game (or at any other time during the camp) Laurie had a conversation with Andrew in which he advised Andrew that he was starting on the bench. That position (that there was no such conversation) was correctly reported in the press yesterday morning and against that background, it is disappointing that the false assertions of the purported conversation continued to be maintained.
Finally, an inference has been made that a car, hired by a journalist who was covering the Blues’ Origin preparation at Kingscliff, was vandalised. Until this inference was made on Tuesday of this week, there had been no assertion whatsoever, including from the journalist in question, that the vandalism was connected to NSWRL or to the State of Origin team. The inference is one of criminal conduct by our players. It goes without saying that such inferences should not be made lightly. If anyone is in possession of information which supports an allegation of criminal conduct against one or more of our players, then NSWRL calls upon that person to immediately report the information to the NSW Police to allow a full investigation to take place. This is the appropriate course of action and one which NSWRL supports. If there is no such information to support an allegation of criminal conduct, then the inference which was made should be immediately withdrawn and the appropriate apology offered to NSWRL and its State of Origin players.
The State of Origin series evokes emotions of incredible intensity, quite unlike any other event in sport. Naturally, when a series which started with such optimism concludes on a disappointing note, everyone who supports the NSW Blues and who has an emotional commitment to them hurts. This is particularly so after a lengthy period of such disappointment. There should be no doubt that everyone at NSWRL is hurting badly at the moment, none more so than Laurie Daley and his team.
Much has been spoken about culture. The focal point of any strong culture is that when times are tough, the strong culture ensures that there is an absence of blame shifting, an absence of scapegoating, a support for those within the group and a commitment to make necessary improvements in an objective way after a period of proper reflection and analysis. NSWRL has such a culture, supported by a strong board. NSWRL calls on everyone to allow for that proper period of reflection and analysis of the 2017 State of Origin series in the absence of a search for scapegoats but with a commitment to make any necessary improvements in an objective way.