Billy Slater warned by NRL over unusual Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow incident in State of Origin

Slater's mid-game Origin moment with the Maroons star raised eyebrows in Game I.

Billy Slater's sideline conversation with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow early in State of Origin Game I has been cleared by NRL officials – but it came with a warning. In a highly unusual move, the Queensland boss left the coach's box and walked up to the utility back as the Maroons were taking a kick for goal midway through the first half.

Slater later explained he wanted to talk to the "Hammer" about his positional play after he was thrown into the fullback following the loss of Reece Walsh due to concussion. Joseph Suaalii was controversially sent off after hitting Walsh high, leaving Queensland with a one-man advantage Slater was keen to exploit.

Seen here, Billy Slater comes down to the sideline to speak with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow.
Billy Slater came down to the sideline to speak with Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow in unusual scenes during Game I of the State of Origin series. Pic: NRL/Getty

"I thought to myself that if that's needed, that is what I will do. When Hammer got thrown back to fullback I thought I could help him with a few things, just having a face-to-face conversation," Slater said after his side's emphatic 38-10 win. "We can't plan for everything but that's one thing I thought would be beneficial to the team, and beneficial to Hammer."

Tabuai-Fidow revealed after the game he initially thought he was in trouble when Slater summonsed him to the sideline for the impromptu chat. "Johnno (assistant coach Johnathan Thurston) came over and said, 'Billy wants to talk to you on the sideline'. I said, 'Sweet, am I in trouble?

"He gave me a few pointers and I tried to stick to that. Billy said, 'Go out there and have fun', but also (spoke about) my defence. I went back out and did my job." Slater's move was one more associated with football managers, not rugby league coaches.

Coaches are permitted to sit on the bench during games – Canberra's Ricky Stuart is one who prefers a ground-level view – but are not supposed to move from that area. NRL head of football Graham Annesley was comfortable with Slater's actions but laced his response with a subtle warning.

Pictured here, Maroons coach Billy Slater.
Maroons coach Billy Slater has been warned about his sideline interaction during Game I of the State of Origin series. Pic: Getty

"Anyone on the bench is required to remain at the bench," Annesley told News Corp. "But our ground managers do show some discretion based on circumstances as things can get quite hectic at times. That said, we regularly remind players, coaches and officials of their responsibilities to ensure the rules are not abused."


Slater patted Tabuai-Fidow on the back before returning to the coach's box and overseeing the completion of a big Queensland win. His words obviously made the right impact on the Hammer, who finished with three tries to push Daly Cherry-Evans for man-of-the-match honours.