By STEVE MASCORD
CRONULLA coach Shane Flanagan and his South Sydney rival Michael Maguire have called for Monday Night Football to be scrapped on the weekends when State of Origin teams are picked or for NSW and Queensland to delay naming their line-ups until the club round is complete.
Flanagan said after last night’s boilover 14-12 victory over the Rabbitohs at Sharks Stadium he was upset that new Blues interchange forward Andrew Fifita had been gone into the NSW camp on the day of a vitally important club game.
While Fifita was the star for the Sharks in the absence of injured representative stars Paul Gallen, Luke Lewis and Michael Gorden, his coach was concerned the distraction would prove too much.
“Either don’t have Monday Night Football in weeks like this or pick the teams on Tuesday – simple,” Flanagan told NRL.com.
“For Andrew it was very hard but even the pressure that Gal was feeling… Gal wants to play and he’s got this Origin thing hanging over him, captaining NSW.
“Gal’s always known he’s going to be in the team. He’s a bit more experienced but the pressure on Andrew, not from anyone but the pressure of being selected and still having another game…
“It’s enormous pressure for players.”
Maguire opted to keep the Queensland selection of Ben Te’o and Chris McQueen from them before last night’s clash to minimise the distraction.
“You can tell players beforehand or after,” Maguire said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got a team that’s very focused on what we were trying to achieve. Unfortunately, as a group, we didn’t do that.”
Told of Flanagan’s comments, Maguire said: “I’m with Flanno (because of) all the distractions for players – who’s in, who’s out. Obviously there was Gallen and Lewis missing tonight after their selection.
“But full credit to Cronulla. They turned up without those players and performed very well.”
Speaking on Triple M, Flanagan said the 23-year-old Fifita thought he was doing the right thing by joining Laurie Daley’s Blues in camp on Monday.
“I was really concerned about the leaking of the (NSW) team,” said Flanagan. “We had three days with us playing on a Monday night.
“(Fifita) actually went into Origin camp today, which I was really disappointed in. I can understand the excitement and everything but I was disappointed he went in there today.
“(He could have) started tonight.
“It was a little bit of miscommunication on our part. It wasn’t the NSWRL’s fault. Gal rang him up and said ‘what are you doing? Do you want to come in for an hour?’ Doing the right thing, he thought … he went in there for an hour.
“In the end, it didn’t affect him. We won the two competition points. But I don’t think it was the right thing to do.
“From my perspective, I don’t think Greg Inglis was at his best tonight. Whether that was playing on his mind or some of the other Souths boys, I don’t know. It is tough to play, knowing you’re going into Origin camp.
By STEVE MASCORD