FOR all of Greg Inglis's aggression, the maturity shown by 11 Blues debutants and the speed and strength of James Tedesco, Origin I exposed something very wrong with rugby league in this country.

That's the view of former NSW coach Phil Gould, who acknowledged that by showcasing the very best of what footy has to offer on Wednesday night, the interstate clash also revealed a glaring flaw with the regular weekend action fans are treated to.

Referees Gerard Sutton and Ashley Klein blew just five penalties for the match - and none after the 27th minute. Four of those went to NSW and one to Queensland.

Fans and commentators alike praised the performances of the two whistleblowers, who let the game flow.

That's not what's been happening in stop-start contests that have plagued the NRL in 2018, where there's been on average 17 penalties a game. Slowing down the play the ball and standing deliberately offside have been so commonplace they've actually lent credibility to the favourite catchcry of supporters standing on hills at suburban grounds: "He's been doing it all day, ref!"

Speaking after NSW had wrapped up the series opener 22-12 at the MCG, Gould questioned why we can't see Origin-esque officiating every weekend and took a pot shot at refs who take it upon themselves to become the centre of attention in the NRL.

"Why can't we have that every week?" Gould said on the Channel 9 telecast. "Why can't we have that every week at every club game? That's football.

"They (referees) just can't get it through their bone heads of what football really is."

James Tedesco found plenty of space through the middle of the ruck.
James Tedesco found plenty of space through the middle of the ruck.

Gould had plenty of support in the form of recently retired Queensland captain Cameron Smith, who was singing from the same songsheet.

"It makes for a better spectacle," Smith said. "It'd be great for the game to see it go that way.

"It makes for a great game for the players, but most importantly for the fans watching it.

"The players get to play the match out, not the officials."

In a rare show of unity, former NSW skipper Paul Gallen agreed with his adversary from north of the Tweed, saying the pace of the game allowed smaller men like Blues hooker Damien Cook and Tedesco to take advantage of tired big men through the middle of the field.

But it's not just the referees who can learn a lesson from Wednesday night's action. Speaking on the Triple M Grill Team this morning, Newcastle great Matthew Johns said the players need to take credit for not cheating the system in the biggest game of the year.

He said the whistleblowers' performance depends on the willingness of the men they are in charge of to play fairly and if the 34 players stick to the rules then the game is better for everyone.

And it was.

Outside of a 50-50 call where Dane Gagai was ruled to have knocked on - as opposed to having the ball stripped by Angus Crichton - the referees had few controversial moments to adjudicate.

"Those little calls go your way and go against you," Queensland coach Kevin Walters said. "On this occasion it could've gone either way, It went NSW's way and then we just weren't quite good enough to defend that set."

Blues coach Brad Fittler was far more forthright in his views. "He dropped the ball. He should have been better," he said.

"I don't think there were many things the referees had to rule on.

"There was the Gagai one and the Maloney forward pass was a 50-50 call against us and they scored just after that.

"Outside that I think it was pretty clear-cut. There wasn't many questionable decisions. They did a good job."

- with AAP


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