‘Gentlemen’s agreement’ to stop milking farce

Queensland captain Daly Cherry-Evans says he’s willing to make a “gentlemen’s agreement” with NSW counterpart James Tedesco to ensure milking doesn’t cast an ugly shadow over the State of Origin series.

Speaking to media today, Cherry-Evans agreed that milking had been a disappointing side-effect of the NRL’s crackdown on high contact, with players caught out lying down to give the video review officials time to pick up high contact, even when minimal.

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It’s sparked an outcry among the rugby league public and turned disgusted fans away with many believing that it’s no longer a sport that showcases toughness – a trait that has always been front and centre in the way the game was promoted.

Nowhere is that truer than in the Origin arena, with Cherry-Evans calling on all 34 combatants to play Wednesday night’s series-opener in a spirit that showcases the sport’s best attributes, adding that the officials had a responsibility to ensure the game didn’t descend to farce.

“I think it’s going to be a bit of a gentleman’s agreement to be honest,” Cherry-Evans said.

“As players we all know what Origin is about, what it means to each other, to the fans.

“We aren’t gladiators, but we’re playing a very heavy contact sport.

“When we go out there, I don’t think there will be too much of that play going on.

Gagai suffering tonsillitis

“That’s sportsmanship at the end of the day. But I think Origin is a different beast. We’ll see a lot of free-flowing footy and not too many people staying down.

“If there’s foul play any player will agree they’re going to have to act on it, but as for those little accidental shots and the ones that brush past it’d be great to see it refereed as a penalty.

“The product of Origin is amazing; 13 on 13, some of the best players going together, I don’t want to have to come off talking about referees.

“I don’t think that’s fair to them; they’ve been under a lot of scrutiny this year, hopefully we can let the footy do the talking as players.”

Cherry-Evans’ comments came after the spotlight was shone on the NRL’s milking problem by young Wests Tigers star Daine Laurie who got off the ground with a big grin on his face after staying down to draw attention to a tackle that crept up high.

It attracted the ire of a Balmain legend, Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach, who told Fox League “people won’t appreciate” that brand of gamesmanship.

“I’ve got an issue with it, especially from my team,” he said.

“The Wests Tigers laying down like that… this ain’t soccer.

“You’ve got to get to your feet. He won the penalty but people won’t appreciate that.”

While the milking issue threatens to hijack the headlines for the last couple of days before Origin I, Cherry-Evans said he was focused on the opportunity to put on a strong performance in front of a Townsville crowd that is likely to be extremely parochial.

“I can’t speak on behalf of everyone but I don’t see it as pressure. It’s a great opportunity to go up there and have a crowd that is going to get behind us 100 per cent,” he said.

“It’s not something that scares me… that’s great. As athletes, we don’t look at it like that, we see it as an opportunity to go up there and do something really special.”

Cherry-Evans said Dane Gagai was recovering well from a bout of tonsilitis and would suit up as per program, while injured Storm stars Harry Grant and Cameron Munster have both performed strongly at training and would be fit for Wednesday night.

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