NRL fans dudded again as Panthers farce highlights need for major change to State of Origin

Ivan Cleary refused to blame State of Origin on his team's poor performance - but there's clearly a problem.

NRL fans have once again been left frustrated with the fallout from State of Origin with Ivan Cleary refusing to blame his decision to rest four representatives for a dire performance in round 17. State of Origin Game 2 offered up a bruising encounter between the Blues and Maroons with NSW winning 38-18 in Melbourne.

Following the debacle in round 16, which saw fans blast the spectacle between the Rabbitohs and Manly with all their star power out, supporters were once again question the timing of Origin with Ivan Cleary, Todd Payten and Kevin Walters all opting to rest their big representative names. Walters was questioned for his decision to rest Reece Walsh, Payne Haas and Patrick Carrigan for the round 17 clash after the club dropped out of the top eight with a loss to the Warriors.

Jarome Luai and Brian To'o alongside Penrith Panthers teammates.
Jarome Luai and Brian To'o (R) were among a number of NRL stars who were rested in Round 17. Image: Getty

Fans were particularly frustrated with Walsh missing another game having not played for the team since round 12. But it was the Cowboys and Panthers game that lacked quality with 10 Origin players missing the clash.

Payten was first to announce all six Origin players from the Cowboys would be rested this weekend for their away clash against the Panthers. This was seen as a huge call from Payten with the Cowboys sitting in eighth place on 18 points. The likes of Rueben Cotter, Valentine Holmes and Jeremiah Nanai all endured a horror night on the back foot against the Blues and didn't back up.

Ivan Cleary then confirmed Blues stars Dylan Edwards, Brian To'o, Liam Martin and Jarome Luai would also miss the clash. The only representative to back-up was Isaah Yeo with the Panthers captain emerging from the bench. And in the wet at BlueBet Stadium, the Cowboys stunned the competition to defeat Cleary's men 16-6.

The game was not of the highest quality, with the rain playing its part, with the lack of points a talking point among supporters. Although coach Cleary refused to blame his Blues players sitting out for the lacklustre attacking display at home. “Look I’m not going to sit here and say it’s all about the Origin players, it is about who played,” Cleary said in his post-match press conference. “I would agree, they had like Chad (Townsend) and (Scott) Drinkwater in the game tonight as well. They probably just handled all that stuff a bit better than us.”

Cleary did admit the players lacked a 'connection' having not spent much time with each other in the NRL. “It’s definitely part of it, the connection wasn’t quite there tonight. Especially around the way we finished sets,” Cleary said.

Many have suggested the NRL competition should be put on hold for three weeks and Origin played on three consecutive Sunday nights. And Round 17 was the perfect example of why the change needs to be made.

Dragons winger Zac Lomax failed to back-up for his team after playing through a knee injury in Origin Game 2, while Harry Grant did not play for the Storm with Craig Bellamy opting to give the No.9 a rest. Although Xavier Coates backed-up for the Storm on Saturday night and will now miss six to eight weeks due to a hamstring injury. This has ruled him out of Origin with some fans questioning whether he should have been rested after his recent workload.

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In round 16, Manly coach Anthony Seibold was ruing the timing of his team's clash against the Rabbitohs with the dire performance seeing the club fail to score against South Sydney for the first time in 75 years. Manly hardly threatened the Rabbitohs with the likes of Daly Cherry-Evans missing to help their attach. He also remained coy on the topic of Origin, but questioned whether there was a better solution.

Many fans have called for State of Origin to have it's own standalone weekend, which would allow the NRL to stop for a week and allow players to rest. The debate continues with 61 per cent of current Yahoo Sport Australia readers agreeing the NRL competition should be put on hold for the State of Origin series.

Xavier Coates injured.
Xavier Coates (pictured) injured himself having backed-up after State of Origin.