Boyd Cordner was surprised a NSW player did not receive the Wally Lewis Medal. Picture: Julian Smith/AAP
Boyd Cordner was surprised a NSW player did not receive the Wally Lewis Medal. Picture: Julian Smith/AAP

Ugly backlash to Origin snub intensifies

THE fallout from the decision of Australian selectors to give Billy Slater the Wally Lewis Medal as player of the series after Origin III on Wednesday night has continued, with those on both sides of the fence putting their cases forward.

The three-man panel - comprising former Queensland coach Mal Meninga, Maroons selector Darren Lockyer and ex-NSW mentor Laurie Daley - crowned Slater man of the match and player of the series despite Queensland losing the Origin shield for the second time in 13 years and the fullback's absence from Origin I because of injury.

Queensland won game three in Brisbane 18-12 and fans felt sentiment had outweighed logic, accusing selectors of handing Slater the honour purely because it was his last Origin match before retiring from representative football.

But Daley and Meninga have both hit out at critics who are questioning their integrity, defending their decision to reward the Melbourne No.1.

"One thing I do know and Mal Meninga knows and Darren Lockyer knows - don't ever question my integrity, don't ever question (why) I'm voting because of whatever reason," Daley said on the Big Sports Breakfast.

"I always vote because I believe they're the man of the match."

Daley said he could see why NSW fans were unhappy but stood by the decision to recognise Slater's contribution across two games.

"I can understand why people are disappointed and blowing up this morning over Billy Slater receiving the Wally Lewis Medal," Daley said.

"He's been very good in games two and three and I believe he is the player of the series.

"I can understand the frustration from NSW supporters because we want a NSW player to win.

"But that's why rugby league is so good - it's all about opinions and it's all about following and supporting your team. Some people thought Damien Cook could have been player of the series, some people thought James Tedesco could have been player of the series.

"It's opinion based and everyone has their opinion about who should be player of the series.

"I'm happy with my selections."

Daley said Slater was the right recipient of the award. Picture: Jono Searle
Daley said Slater was the right recipient of the award. Picture: Jono Searle

Meninga too backed the process that he and his fellow judges followed to come to their decision.

"I'm happy with the outcome," Meninga told The Daily Telegraph.

"We have a really good process in place. It's an independent process with the three judges. There is no collusion or conversations around who should get it. It's purely independent."

The medal is decided by a 4-3-2-1 poll system and Lockyer was comfortable with how he, Meninga and Daley reached their outcome.

"There's a points system in each game, and he (Slater) has outpolled everyone in two games. That's how it works," Lockyer said.

Former Blues skipper Paul Gallen was critical of the decision during Channel 9's telecast on Wednesday night, and on Thursday series-winning NSW captain Boyd Cordner expressed surprise his victorious teammates were overlooked.

"I was a bit surprised, to be honest, given he (Slater) played two out of the three games and lost the second game," Cordner told the Triple M Grill Team.

"He did play fantastic, don't get me wrong, but I truly believe that it should have gone to one of our players.

"There could have been a handful of guys out of our team.

"Probably the two that come off the top of my head are Tommy Trbojevic - I thought he had a really good series on the wing, he was one of our best players every game - and also James Tedesco.

"They're two players that come to the top of my head and there's another few players that, had it gone to them, I would have been happy."

Cordner couldn’t understand why his teammates were overlooked. Picture: Adam Head
Cordner couldn’t understand why his teammates were overlooked. Picture: Adam Head

When it was put to Cordner he had every right to be man of the series, the 26-year-old deflected the notion in humble fashion and maintained he was just happy to be part of a winning side - something New South Welshmen have had precious little experience with since 2006.

"I'm happy just to get the series win and I'm chuffed about that and it's something that I'll never forget," Cordner said.

NSW coach Brad Fittler accepted the Slater decision but said he had a few of his own troops in front.

"I can live with the fact Billy takes the medal away. He's been one of our great State of Origin players," Fittler said.

"There were a few players in our team that I would've chosen ahead of Billy in this series, but the fact (is) he's been a brilliant player for the sport, State of Origin.

"I can live with him taking away a medal, but it was more than for this series."

Asked who he thought deserved the prize, Fittler said: "Tom Trbojevic was pretty outstanding I thought across the three games. He was my pick."

NSW five-eighth James Maloney said that although Slater had performed strongly, a number of Blues players were more worthy recipients.

"I think Teddy (Tedesco) was very good. I thought Tommy Trbojevic was outstanding. There's a whole heap of guys that put in massive performances for us," he said.

"There's no doubt Bill was a real key player in Queensland's performance.

"But at the end of the day we won the series. You'd think they probably could've found a deserving recipient in our team. But oh well, it is what it is."

- with AAP