NRL boss Peter V’landys has warned that the State of Origin isn’t the UFC in an attempt to quash any flicker of a rematch between feuding forwards Payne Haas and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.
As fans fret over whether the league’s controversial crackdown will rear its head in the iconic series, V’landys has appeared to make the first move, sending a message to NSW’s Haas and Queensland’s Fa’asuamaleaui to leave the biff at home.
The two enforcers set 2020’s series alight when they traded fists in Game Two and have been trading words ahead of the June 9 opener in Townsville next Wednesday.
V’landys welcomed a bit of pre-game war of words but issued the bruising pair a stern warning; keep it legal.
“You don’t have to hit someone in the head to be Gladiatorial or brutal,” V’landys said.
“Origin isn’t designed to be UFC. It’s designed to be a brutal game of rugby league. In UFC, you can do whatever you like but rugby league, no, you’ve got to work within the rules.
“You can hit someone as hard as you want and be as tough as you want – but don’t hit them in the head when they least expect it. That’s all we ask – leave the head alone.
“I love the banter, I love the fact they’re going to be Gladiatorial but all I say is do it within the rules. No-one is going to take brutality out of the game, that’s not the intention.
“The intention is to protect the welfare of the player so when he leaves the game he has his full faculties. I welcome the banter, that’s what State of Origin is all about. All I’m asking is do it within the rules.
“I don’t remember too many times in Origin where someone has wilfully given a coat hanger or someone hit in the head.”