While State Of Origin Game 3 2022 will long be remembered as one of the most physical and entertaining clashes between the two sides, the immediate aftermath has been soured by a few “bad losers” from the NSW side of the border.
As is always the case, mainstream sports media has exacerbated the issue by highlighting only a select few quotes from within far longer statements and press conferences, however in this case those sound bites on their own aren’t completely out of context.
Take Andrew Johns, who’s post-game sulking was akin to a child throwing a tantrum when they don’t get what they want. John’s’ whining about having to listen to the “bullshit” from Queensland for the next year was just petulance from someone who expected a certain result and couldn’t hack not getting that result.
It wasn’t just the words; it was the whole tone and expression. It was childish foot-stamping and lacked any semblance of professionalism.
In fairness to Johns, he did apologise to fellow commentators (and Queensland legends) Cameron Smith and Fatty Vautin, stating he was swept up with emotion and didn’t articulate his feelings very well.
NSW coach Brad Fittler wasn’t much better, complaining about the sin-binning of Matt Burton who was caught in a 2-on-1 scuffle.
To an extent, Fittler has a point. One bloke getting attacked by two others has to defend himself, and 2-on-1 fights aren’t fair fights. To punish the outnumbered man can seem unfair in itself.
What Fittler conveniently ignored is the fact that Burton and Queensland’s Dane Gagai were trading blows before the third man arrived. Only then did it become a lopsided fight.
Irregardless, the rules state that players who throw punches get 10 in the bin. The circumstances of those punches don’t matter. Whether it’s a fair fight or not, anyone throwing punches goes to the sidelines.
In this case, referee Ashley Klein handled the situation exactly as the rules instruct him to and sent both players off the field. The third man in for Queensland never threw a punch.
Fittler knows the rules. For him to allege that the binning of Burton was in someway unfair reeks of bad sportsmanship. Both players threw punches, both went to the bin.
Fittler’s comments flirt with accusing the referee of favouritism, something Brandon Smith of the Melbourne Storm received a three week suspension for only days earlier.
Admittedly, Smith’s comments were far more blunt and Fittler chose his words more carefully, but to make the statement at all reeked of bad sportsmanship.
While some accuse the current NSW players of not being as committed to Origin as their Queensland counterparts, the dedication of Fittler and Johns cannot be questioned. A NSW series loss obviously hurts these two and both would probably choose their words differently if they had their time again.
But they need to learn that it is possible to be gracious in defeat without appearing uncaring. They both failed to lose with class and displayed petulance instead of passion. Disappointment in defeat is perfectly natural but two blokes who have been around Origin for as long as these two should handle it better.
No doubt they – along with most NSW fans – entered Game 3 full of confidence, many likely expecting easy victory after a dominant performance in Game 2.
Defeat was obviously a bitter shock, but it’s no excuse for throwing the toys out of the cot and sulking like children.
Fittler in particular needs to lift his game. Complaining about calls and arranging meetings with referees does nothing good for his credibility and raises questions about the culture he is creating within the NSW squad.
They’ll need to be better in future, because their behaviour likely has many neutral observers already hoping for another Queensland series win next year.
Nobody respects a sore loser.