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Stuart's Origin plea unlikely

By Steve Jancetic, Wayne Heming and Sam McKeith 16/06/2011 06:17:31 PM Comments (0)

The sentiment behind NSW coach Ricky Stuart's desperate plea for his players to be rested prior to the State of Origin decider has received across the board support, but all and sundry agree his wish is the stuff of pipe dreams.

St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett - a longtime campaigner for stand alone Origin matches - sympathised with Stuart's plight ahead of the series finale on July 6, which the Blues must win to avoid a sixth-straight series loss.

Bennett's Dragons are at the centre of Stuart's dilemma regarding Origin III, with the premiers slated to play Manly on the Monday night nine days before NSW take on the Maroons at Suncorp Stadium.

With seven members of the NSW side which won 18-8 at ANZ Stadium on Monday night in line to play in the round 16 encounter, Stuart called on his players to stand down from club commitments to improve the Blues' chances of ending Queensland's Origin dominance.

"We can't change things mid-stream," Bennett told AAP.

"I can understand where Ricky is coming from and I'm fine with it.

"It (Brisbane Origin) is a huge game. It deserves its players to be prepared properly, not overworked.

"That's what Origin is all about. It can't get any better than one-all in the series."

Asked if he thought his Origin players would ask to be rested from taking on the Sea Eagles, Bennett said: "No, they won't do that. That's the unfair bit.

"You know they'd love to have a break because they know how much better they'd be, but they won't ask.

"They never want to let anybody down, that's the psyche of our players."

While the Dragons' Origin contingent remained silent as they prepared to board a flight for Friday night's NRL clash with Brisbane, club skipper Ben Hornby said he did not expect any of his teammates to ask for the night off against the Sea Eagles.

"I only heard it this morning and thought it's probably good for NSW but it's not good for the Dragons," Hornby said.

"...I think if those blokes are fit they'll be playing for us."

Manly coach Des Hasler - who will have to do without Will Hopoate for an extended period after he was ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring injury sustained in his Origin debut - said Stuart's call would sound warning bells to the NRL.

"It's a big call and I don't think it will happen, you've got to consider the networks, ratings and sponsors and owners and the players," Hasler said.

"But I'll tell you what it does highlight, and I think what Rick is really saying is that the current set up, the current system of Origin not being stand-alone, is the real problem."

NRL boss David Gallop said in the aftermath of Wednesday night's game that the NRL program could not be altered ahead of Origin III.

But Stuart did get some support from an unlikely source with Queensland hooker Cameron Smith intimating the predicament was not a new occurrence.

"It's what I've been talking about, what Locky's (Darren Lockyer) been talking about and what (Melbourne coach) Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett have been going on about," Smith said.

"It's huge for NSW because they haven't won in five years and it's big for us because it's that bloke (Lockyer's) last game."

Lockyer said decisions on player availability were not Stuart's to make.

"It's probably not up to Ricky whether players stand down, it's more a club thing," Lockyer said.

"You can understand Ricky's logic, he's got them playing well and he wants them to put their state before their club.

"But I think the clubs have the right to play them first."

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