Michael Maguire and Billy Slater.
The Origin series between Michael Maguire's NSW and Billy Slater's Qld could be decided at the MCG. Image by Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Slater-Maguire feud adds spice to Origin build-up

George Clarke June 25, 2024

The feud between Billy Slater and Michael Maguire continues to simmer after the pair faced off for the first time since the NSW coach accused Queensland of living in “glass houses”.

Maguire’s insinuation that the Maroons were hypocrites for crying foul over the Blues’ heavy-handed treatment of Reece Walsh in game one, was a hot topic at the pre-game press conference for State of Origin II at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Tuesday.

Queensland fullback Walsh was knocked out in a sickening hit by Blues centre Joseph-Aukuso Suaalii in the series opener, which the Maroons won 38-10 to take a 1-0 lead into game two at the MCG on Wednesday night.

Queensland greats of the past, including Slater’s assistant coach Johnathan Thurston, condemned NSW for unfairly targeting Walsh.

Maguire is usually reserved and diplomatic in a public setting.

His decision to bite back at the Maroons was interpreted in some quarters as a ploy to take the heat off new NSW halfback Mitchell Moses and returning centre Latrell Mitchell.

The Blues coach, who did not name which Queenslander he was referring to, was keen to let the guessing games continue on Tuesday when he was pressed on the target of his “glass houses” barb.

“I’ll let you decide who it was about,” Maguire said.

Billy Slater.
 Billy Slater gives the thumps up at Queensland training on the Gold Coast. Image by Darren England/AAP PHOTOS 

“I guess one thing I do is I look after my players, that’s where it was focused.”

The NSW coach and his Queensland counterpart insist they retain a cordial relationship after working together at the Melbourne Storm over a decade ago.

There was a hint of tension when the Maroons arrived 10 minutes late to the pre-match press conference and the Blues were booed when stepping onto the stage.

“We’re good,” Slater said, when quizzed on relations with Maguire.

“We did (shake hands) … we’re not actually playing, I don’t know if you know that.

“To be honest I didn’t feel it (the glass houses sledge) was directed at me.

“It’s been a real focus on us and for me to play my part in that it’s about keeping my head out of that noise and doing my part for the team.”

The fallout over the Walsh hit has led to more accusations of dirty play coming to life.

Blues great Andrew Johns accused Maroons captain Daly Cherry-Evans of a “cheap shot” on NSW back-rower Angus Crichton.

Johns’ comments added further fuel to the animosity between the two states when the last few years of pre-game build-up has been laced with platitudes.

“It’s honestly not in my best interests to be watching what you guys (the media) talk about,” Cherry-Evans quipped on Tuesday.

Billy Slater and Reece Walsh.
 Reece Walsh and Maroons coach Billy Slater throw the ball around at Sanctuary Cove. Image by Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS 

There will be a keen focus on Walsh as he returns to the Maroons side on Wednesday in what will be his first outing since he was victim of Suaalii’s head-high shot in the series opener in Sydney.

Slater insisted the fullback would not be gunshy, while Maguire is backing referee Ashley Klein to allow the Blues to maintain the pressure on the electric Queensland No.1 within the letter of the law.

“We haven’t had a lot of focus around that,” Maguire said.

“I am sure it will get adjudicated for whatever they see in front of them.

“We have a plan of how we want to play and we’ll stick to it.”

The NRL expects to attract a crowd of close to 90,000 at the MCG where NSW hold a 4-1 record over the Maroons.