The NSWRL will use its post-series review to investigate claims that Blues backs Josh Dugan and Blake Ferguson left the team camp on the Friday before the deciding State of Origin clash and spent as many as eight hours at a pub an hour south of their Kingscliff base.
Laurie Daley’s side were ambushed 22-6 by Queensland to concede yet another series to the Maroons in a result that has left scrutiny on the coach’s future and on under-performing players.
Now, Dugan and Ferguson, who infamously took photos of themselves drinking on a roof of their house in Canberra when they were at the Raiders in 2013, have come under further scrutiny.
It was reported on Fox Sport’s NRL 360 on Monday night that Dugan and Ferguson had used a day off five days before the match to go drinking at the Lennox Point Hotel. There were no suggestions that the pair had misbehaved but there will inevitably be questions about the appropriateness of such activity given the result.
NSW chief executive David Trodden said on Monday night the claims about Dugan and Ferguson would be examined. “We’ve been made aware of the reports at a hotel on the players’ day off. We were previously unaware,” Trodden said. “But this will be one of the matters that will be looked at in the review of the 2017 series.”
Meanwhile, NSWRL father figure John Chalk believes Daley will bid to continue as the Blues’ State of Origin coach because of a “burning desire” to win another series.
Five days after a crushing defeat to Queensland at Suncorp Stadium that clinched an 11th series win in 12 years for the Maroons, uncertainty remained about whether Daley would seek a new contract with the NSWRL with his deal running out this year.
The board of the NSWRL is due to meet on Friday but it is highly unlikely any call will be made on the head coaching situation then. Daley is yet to publicly elucidate his intentions and a full review of the Blues’ campaign is set to take place before a decision is made on who steers the state beyond this year.
Despite winning only one series during his five years as coach Daley has the support of chairman George Peponis and chief executive David Trodden. And Chalk, the former NSWRL chair who now holds the honorary position as the organisation’s president, suspects Daley will want to continue as Blues coach rather than walk away.
“I just think that somewhere amongst it all … and I’ve known Loz since he was very young … there is a burning desire in there, believe me,” Chalk said. “He wants
to nail one to the wall before he moves on, in my opinion. I just think once you’ve been to the well and had a good drink out of it, you want to keep going back. If he feels like he hasn’t got it in him, I’d respect that too. I just get the feeling he has something more to give.”
Whether Daley would have the numbers at board level to win a new contract is another issue. But with NSW having established a policy of having a full-time coach rather than appointing one from the NRL ranks, Peponis’s argument that Daley is still the best man for the job isn’t an empty platitude.
Andrew Johns has ruled himself out, and would consider only an assistant’s role, and Brad Fittler’s broadcasting commitments with Channel 9 are a potential hurdle for any candidacy of his. Other names mentioned include Sydney Roosters assistant Craig Fitzgibbon and Ricky Stuart’s right-hand man at Canberra, Dean Pay.
Fittler has been careful not to put his hand up while Daley considers his future but others have endorsed the former NSW captain, whose 31 matches for the Blues is a state record.
Parramatta’s Tim Mannah, who played under Fittler in the City Origin team, is convinced he would be a great fit to lead NSW. “I’m a big fan of Freddy, especially for that kind of arena,” said Mannah. “He’s the kind of coach you want when you go into a camp, like Mal Meninga did for Queensland. He knew they were talented enough to be there, it was just a matter of people management to get the best out of the group.”