Did Fittler’s complaints lead to moment that changed Origin series?

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Did Fittler’s complaints lead to moment that changed Origin series?

By Christian Nicolussi

Perth: Whatever Brad Fittler said to referees’ boss Jared Maxwell before Origin II, it worked.

Fittler made it known he was unimpressed with a few of Queensland’s tactics in game one, including their deliberate tactic to slow down the play-the-ball.

And from the early exchanges in Perth, referee Ashley Klein was not going to give the Maroons’ any leeway when it came to slowing down the ruck.

The flashpoint came just before half-time when Klein sin-binned Felise Kaufusi. Klein could be overheard just a few seconds beforehand warning the players they risked having one of them sent.

And when Junior Paulo carted the ball up at full-steam before several Queensland defenders laid on top of him, Kaufusi became the fall guy.

Kaufusi took an eternity to come from the field and shook his head in frustration. Skipper Daly Cherry-Evans remonstrated with Klein who spoke about the repeated offences.

Felise Kaufusi is sent to the bin in Perth.

Felise Kaufusi is sent to the bin in Perth.Credit:Getty Images

With Kaufusi off, NSW were able to score a try through Brian To’o to take a two-point half-time lead.

The Queenslanders never really recovered from the huge defensive effort and having to play with 12 men for 10 minutes.


A few commentators were disappointed Kaufusi had been sent to the bin, including Phil Gould.

“I hate sin-bins at the best of times, let alone at Origin,” Gould said on Channel Nine.

“He [Klein] got frantic and ruled four or five [penalties] in the space of a minute and then just had enough and sent him off.

“Now they’ll justify that, but in Origin football - or any football - I don’t think it should have got to that point.

“The fact that these six-agains were not penalty kicks for goal meant they were just given away like smarties. You don’t need that - it’s Origin football.”

The Blues and Fittler did not want to come across as whingers after June 8’s 16-10 loss, but felt passionate enough to make sure to raise their concerns with officials.

Fittler expected Klein to officiate the second game, but could not resist nominating Grant Atkins as his favourite whistleblower during the week.

While he will be praised for the changes he made to seal the win in the west, his conversation with Maxwell may have proven the best move of all.

Queensland coach Billy Slater refused to get drawn into any debate about officialdom, but might be tempted to pipe up after seeing what it did for NSW and Fittler. He became animated in the box once Kaufusi was given a stint in the bin.

Because of the ban on Queensland’s go-slow tactics, Nathan Cleary was also able to get plenty of kicks away with little pressure.


In fact, not one Maroon had placed a hand on Cleary during the first half when he kicked.

Fittler politely pointed out to Maxwell the Maroons should have been pinched at least a few times for illegal late hits on the halfback.

There were no other controversial calls made by Klein. A late hit by Cleary on Kalyn Ponga was placed on report, especially with Ponga forced off the field for a head injury assessment, which prompted Andrew Johns to ask on Nine: “On report? What, for tackling him too hard.”

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