OPINION: Winning Origin may mean forgetting about ethics
"DEFINITELY not. The players were given the opportunity to show they were responsible and they let Queensland down."
That was the response Maroons coach Kevin Walters gave me at the weekend when asked if the series-long Origin suspension to eight Queensland rookies who broke curfew during an emerging Origin camp was any chance of being lifted.
But, as his mischievous persona took control, he added "unless circumstances change".
Outstanding performances over the weekend from two of those outcasts, Anthony Milford and Dylan Napa, have again turned the blowtorch on the rookie coach.
Napa - big, strong, tough and skilful - was awesome for the Roosters on Friday night.
He single-handedly demolished a Rabbitohs pack that included big Sam Burgess, unquestionably one of the best in the game.
Channel 9's Phil Gould - a blue-chip judge - rated his first-half display 'one of the best defensive efforts from a forward, ever'.
The previous night, Milford continued his brilliant start to the season when he engineered the Broncos to a win over the Dragons.
His performance led Darren Lockyer to describe him as the most skilful all-round five-eighth he had ever seen.
And when Walters and his Origin nemesis, Laurie Daley, swapped hats on NRL 360 during the week, Daley was asked whether he would lift the suspensions if things became desperate.
His reply was "yes, because winning is paramount".
Yet, despite those sentiments, Queensland is set to sit on its dig, show the rugby league world the morality card, and leave these potential match-winners in the stands for the upcoming series.
Okay, so Walters would look weak if he suspended the suspensions. And yes, it would be sending a poor message to the next generation.
But what is really at stake here, and what is paramount?
State of Origin has evolved into a genuine sporting phenomenon and in recent years the TV coverage is a nationwide blockbuster.
In NSW and Queensland the three games polarise fans, mates and even families.
When it comes to Origin, the over-riding question is what is more important, the result or the principle?
Surely what needs to be done to win the series, must be done.
And the ethics of the Maroons during the first 35 years of the contest aren't exactly lilly white.
Greg Inglis, born and raised on the NSW mid-north coast, has long been the greatest bone of contention for Blues fans, while doubts over the eligibility of Wayne Bartrim, Israel Folau, Adrian Lam and Billy Moore have often been a thorn in their side.
And there is the added issue of Kiwi Graham Lowe once coaching the mighty Maroons.
Come on Kevie, a little impunity isn't likely to inflict much more damage on that imperfect image.
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