Australia coach Mal Meninga has jumped to the defence of NSW Origin pair Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson after revelations of their pub visit during camp.
Scrutiny of the Blues’ State of Origin team culture have intensified after fresh claims emerged the former Canberra teammates spent eight hours at Lennox Point Hotel on a day off.
However, Meninga said there is no evidence either player – both of whom are Kangaroos incumbents – misbehaved during what was a scheduled day off prior to last week’s decider.
“They are treated like adults and are accountable for their actions. When it does affect their performances, then they accept the consequences,” Meninga told AAP.
Broadcaster Ray Hadley weighed in on Tuesday, accusing Blues officials of hiding the players from media the following day and questioning the team management’s actions.
“What they do on a day off is up to them. I wouldn’t think it’s very responsible to go to a pub and get on the drink,” Hadley said on 2GB.
“Go to the pub, have a lemon squash and have a punt if you’re socialising.
“In the reports I get out of Kingscliff, either one or the two were so affected by alcohol the next day, which would have been the Saturday, the team management – instead of sanctioning the two players – actually hid them from view.”
Hadley also claimed players had speculated someone within the NSW camp was responsible for vandalising a journalist’s hire car during the Kingscliff camp for game one.
AAP understands a car was vandalised with spray paint, however, it is not believed any Blues players were involved and no complaints were made.
The NSWRL said on Tuesday they were looking into Dugan and Ferguson’s pub trip and had no reason to investigate the car vandalism.
Dugan and Ferguson were reportedly at the Lennox Head pub in the afternoon and early evening on the Friday before Origin game III.
“We were with two of our good mates having lunch and a few beers. We were home at a respectable hour and there’s nothing more to it,” Dugan told News Corp Australia.
“It was six days (sic) out from the game.”
Former Blues skipper Paul Gallen questioned the wisdom of drinking alcohol at that time, although reserved judgement as he didn’t know the details.
“I think a lot of it comes back to individual preparation and how well you want to prepare for a game and how much this game means for you,” Gallen told Sky Sports Radio.
“If they went out on an eight-hour bender five days out from an Origin game, I think it’d be bitterly disappointing for themselves and the whole team, and certainly (coach) Laurie Daley.”
Meanwhile, Blues adviser Peter Sterling has confirmed NSW coaching staff planned for bench forward David Klemmer to start ahead of Andrew Fifita in game three.
But he did not substantiate suggestions the backflip was due to Fifita taking exception to the call.
“I don’t know about any blow-up. I don’t know what the reaction was,” Sterling told Triple M.