Wayne Bennett hit back at Brad Fittler's claims Jai Arrow showed the injured James Tedesco a "lack of respect" after the Queensland Maroons defeated the New South Wales Blues to clinch the State of Origin Series.

The Maroons ran out 20-14 winners at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Wednesday to win game three and a secure a first series triumph since 2017.

Fittler's Blues were dealt a blow when captain Tedesco, whose earlier score had put them on the board, was concussed after taking a knee to the head from Josh Papalii, causing him to lose his grip on the ball.

Arrow, seemingly unaware of what had happened, was seen pushing Tedesco into the turf as he lay on the ground before the Blues skipper was taken off the field, prompting a backlash on social media.

Asked for his thoughts on the incident after the game, Fittler said: "A lot of lack of respect. But I'm sure he'd learn from that."

Winning Maroons coach Bennett defended his player, though, saying the speed of the game meant he did not know Tedesco had been hurt.

"That was in instinct, mate. That happened so quick and he didn't realise that Papalii had hit him with his knee," Bennett said. 

"As soon as he realised what he'd done, he stayed there. He never moved, he didn't run away and get a high-five or something.

"It happens so quickly out there and he just didn't know what had happened. I thought he reacted really good. 

"If you look at his head, he never even seen what happened. He was in there trying to make the tackle, he never saw the knee go into Tedesco's head.

"Brad's kidding himself, okay? There was no lack of respect there. Just watch it again."

Cameron Munster was in inspired form as the Queensland Maroons defeated the New South Wales Blues 20-14 to clinch State of Origin glory in Wednesday's game-three decider.

A full capacity crowd at Suncorp Stadium, the largest globally since the COVID-19 pandemic put restrictions on supporters worldwide, witnessed Queensland end the Blues' hopes of a three-peat.

Playmaker Munster and debutant Harry Grant particularly impressed for a Maroons side who have now won seven of the last eight Origin games at Suncorp including the past three.

Valentine Holmes, who moved to the wing for the decider, scored first after three minutes with a leaping finish in the left corner following a well-worked Queensland move.

A mistake from Corey Allan allowed James Tedesco to quickly level but the Blues were dealt a blow when their captain and try scorer left the field with an injury.

Queensland dominated the rest of the half but it took until the stroke of half-time to engineer a 12-6 lead when Munster's kick was finished by Edrick Lee.

Holmes squandered a couple of try-scoring opportunities as the Blues kept the scoreline in check, but he added a penalty before Grant marked a fine bow by going over.

In a frantic finish, Daniel Tupou's try kept NSW in the match before Allan's sin-binning for a professional foul on Josh Addo-Carr invited late Blues pressure, which the Maroons held firm against to earn coach Wayne Bennett a series win 17 years on from his last spell in charge.

An entertaining 2020 State of Origin series will reach a conclusion on Wednesday when the Queensland Maroons take on the New South Wales Blues. 

Queensland recorded a surprise 18-14 win in Adelaide to open the series, only to be brought back down to earth last week when NSW triumphed 34-10 in Sydney on the back of a man-of-the-match display by Nathan Cleary. 

That means the series is intriguingly poised at 1-1 ahead of Game III at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. 

With the help of Opta statistics, we take a look at some of the key talking points ahead of the decider. 

Queensland have won the last five Game III deciders which have been played outside New South Wales. The most recent of those, in 2017, saw Valentine Holmes score a hat-trick as Cameron Smith was named man-of-the-match.

The Maroons have also won six of the last seven State of Origin matches at Suncorp Stadium, including the previous two at the venue despite trailing at half-time.

NSW, though, triumphed in the last two Origin series and are aiming to seal a third consecutive victory. If achieved, it would be their joint-longest winning run in the format, with NSW previously achieving a three-peat between 2003 and 2005 after their first such streak from 1992 to 1994.

The Maroons will have to improve defensively, having conceded 26 or more points in three of the last four State of Origin matches, three of which have been losses. They had only leaked that many points once in the 11 games prior.

Daly Cherry-Evans was man-of-the-match in Game I. He has 11 one-on-one tackles, the most of anyone in this series so far. Queensland players also come second and third in that ranking, thanks to the efforts of Dane Gagai (10) and Kurt Capewell (eight).

Phillip Sami has made a joint-series high two try saves for Queensland in this State of Origin campaign, level with Gagai (two) and as many as the entire New South Wales team combined (Tyson Frizell and Daniel Saifiti have one each).

Josh Addo-Carr has scored a series-leading four tries in 2020 and the New South Wales star needs one more to equal the record for the most in single edition. That is jointly held by Ryan Girdler and Lote Tuqiri, who had five each in the 2000 campaign.

Deciders played in Queensland have typically seen NSW start fast. They have led at half-time on nine previous occasions, going on to win in six of those fixtures (L3).

Having won last year's decider 26-20, New South Wales will be looking to claim back-to-back victories in Game III for only the second time in State of Origin history. 

They have only previously done so in 2004 and 2005. The 2019 decider saw them edge an entertaining encounter 26-20 courtesy of a last-gasp James Tedesco try in Sydney.

New South Wales' Tedesco has scored three tries in his last two appearances in Origin deciders. In those contests, he has also made four line breaks and 13 tackle breaks.

Nathan Cleary insists New South Wales have won nothing yet after he inspired his side to a 34-10 victory over Queensland on Wednesday to level the State of Origin series.

The Penrith Panthers halfback was named man of the match after leading the Blues to victory in Sydney with some outstanding kicking.

Cleary's place in the side had come under scrutiny in the build-up after he went into the contest with the record of being the first New South Wales half in history to go without a try assist or linebreak assist in his opening six Origin games.

However, the 22-year-old responded with some sublime playmaking, kicked four conversions out of six and sent over a late penalty to cap a commanding win.

His display led past Origins star Andrew Johns, who was one of those critics to call for his replacement this week, to describe Cleary's kicking performance as the finest by a Blues player in the history of the contest.

"I think we blocked that [talk] out pretty well this week," Cleary said afterwards.

"That's the pleasure of kind of being away in camp, surrounded by a great bunch of blokes, great coaching staff and just having to focus on ourselves.

"It's no different this week. We haven't done anything yet - we still have a game to win up in Queensland.

"We weren't happy with where we were finishing our sets down in Adelaide. That's what Origin football is about.

"When you have [Josh Addo-Carr] and that on the wings you can utilise it but, having said that, we just wanted to work together and to get to spots on the field where we thought we could get our best kicks off. I thought we did that really well."

Queensland had gone ahead through a stunning Xavier Coates try but were second best from then on, as Cody Walker, James Tedesco, Jack Wighton and Daniel Tupou all scored a try apiece while Addo-Carr got a double.

In his first game as captain, Tedesco was proud of the renewed efforts of his side after their 18-14 loss in the series opener in Adelaide.

"We think we were a bit complacent," he said. "We were really disappointed in that first game and we wanted to show more heart and pride in the jersey. I think we did that."

The decider takes place in Brisbane in a week's time.

New South Wales levelled the State of Origin series after a dominant 34-10 victory in game two on Wednesday.

The Maroons edged the opener in Adelaide last week with a four-point victory as they turned around a 10-0 half-time deficit.

It was the Blues who recorded a comeback in front of more than 36,000 fans in Syndey, though, as they overturned Xavier Coates' sublime opening try with six of their own, including a double from Josh Addo-Carr.

Some haphazard Queensland defending and imperious kicking from Nathan Cleary helped New South Wales to force a decider in Brisbane in a week's time.

Coates put Queensland in front with a quite spectacular score, leaping high to touch down in the corner under pressure with eight minutes on the clock.

The Blues were 12-4 up inside half an hour, though, Cody Walker going over before James Tedesco drove through a gap and over the line, with Cleary twice adding the extras.

The advantage was stretched before the interval when Addo-Carr skipped through in straightforward fashion after the Blues suddenly found themselves four-on-three from a 10-metre scrum.

New South Wales carried that momentum into the second half and cemented their advantage within three minutes of the restart, Jack Wighton squaring up his man before forcing his way over the try line after Queensland wilted against a series of drives.

The visiting defence was in complete disarray and Daniel Tupou got his first Origin try as the Blues again attacked with a man advantage following a scrum, although Cleary missed his first attempt with the boot when he clipped the post.

As frustrations built, scuffles began to break out and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Payne Haas were sent to the sin bin following a brawl.

Josh Papalii powered over to give Queensland a lifeline only for Addo-Carr to gather Walker's clever kick and score his eighth Origin try, making certain of a third game next week before Cleary's late penalty capped a resounding win.

AJ Brimson will not feature again in the 2020 State of Origin series, having suffered a foot injury after scoring on his Queensland debut.

Brimson helped turn the tide in Wednesday's 18-14 Game I win over New South Wales, scoring the Maroons' first points with a second-half try after the Blues had tallied a 10-point lead at the break.

The Gold Coast Titans fullback was among eight Queensland players making their bows, yet his involvement in the series is over.

"Scans confirmed a Lisfranc ligament injury, which will rule AJ out of the rest of the series," Maroons team doctor Matt Hislop said.

"A specialist surgeon has been consulted and initial advice is for him to remain in camp."

Brimson added: "I was stoked to make my Origin debut and to get the win was an incredible feeling.

"I've got great belief in the squad and we're really well-placed to go on and win the series."

There was better news on team-mate Kurt Capewell, another debutant whose unorthodox kick created Brimson's crucial try.

Capewell had been battling groin tightness prior to Wednesday's game, but Hislop said: "Kurt aggravated his symptoms during the game. However, his scans are reassuring.

"We anticipate he will respond to further treatment and be available for Game II."

NSW have their own injury problems, meanwhile, with Cameron Murray joining Brimson in being ruled out of the series.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs lock, who was part of last year's winning side, sustained a hamstring injury just five minutes after being introduced in the first half of Origin I.

Jack Wighton has a leg problem but is set to make Game II.

Daly Cherry-Evans hailed the impact of returning Queensland coach Wayne Bennett after he was named man of the match in the Maroons' Origin I win over New South Wales.

Wednesday's 2020 State of Origin opener - delayed until after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic - saw Queensland record a surprise victory, overturning a 10-point deficit to win 18-14 in Adelaide.

Manly Sea Eagles’ Cherry-Evans edged out impressive rookie Kurt Capewell for the MVP award after converting tries from Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates and Cameron Munster.

Queensland trailed 10-0 at half-time but ultimately prevailed with Bennett – who is being supported by Mal Meninga and Neil Henry - rewarded for his bold call to play eight debutants.

The Maroons are now well placed to prevent NSW from winning a third straight series.

"I never have been coached by Wayne before and he has a presence about him," said Maroons captain Cherry-Evans. 

"We are that lucky with the coaching staff we have got that they have coached a lot of big games.

"They definitely did a lot of the settling of the nerves during the week. It allowed me to just concentrate on being the halfback, which was good.

"Mal, I have been lucky enough to be coached by him and he definitely has a presence amongst him. 

"It is not unnerving or unsettling, but it makes you comfortable and sure of yourself. We had that. I could [feel their presence]."

Asked what Bennett had said to inspire a turnaround at half-time, Cherry-Evans said: "To be more direct. Once we got those messages and clarity, I thought that we found our groove."

Munster, meanwhile, felt the Maroons had provided the perfect answer to their critics.

"There is a lot of hunger in that group and no one gave us a chance," said Munster, who recently celebrated NRL Grand Final glory with Melbourne Storm.

"We just dug deep, just completing sets and kicking to the corners - that is what we did."

After Queensland had scored 18 unanswered points, Josh Addo-Carr crossed for his second try of the match with five minutes to go as NSW moved to within one score of victory.

Munster attempted to keep the young team calm, adding: "I was pretty much swearing, 'Boys, you cannot lose it'. 

"We needed to dig deep - the Blues are a great outfit and they can score all over the field. We just needed to get up."

Queensland overturned a first-half deficit to strike first in the 2020 State of Origin with an 18-14 defeat of New South Wales in Wednesday's series opener. 

The Maroons lost last year but seized the initiative as the latest edition - delayed until after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic - got under way with the first ever Origin match in Adelaide. 

An inexperienced line-up had to show plenty of spirit as a one-two punch from the Blues saw Damien Cook and Josh Addo-Carr cross in quick succession to claim a 10-0 lead at the interval. 

But Queensland stuck to their task and were good value for victory as an excellent second period saw Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates and Cameron Munster all on the scoresheet, with Addo-Carr's late second try unable to rescue a result before attention turns towards Sydney next week.

Cook's knock-on from the kick-off epitomised an untidy start as Addo-Carr was squeezed out in the corner at one end before Daly Cherry-Evans skewed a penalty wide in the absence of a regular Queensland kicker. 

The game remained scoreless until the 16th minute when Cook gathered his own kick and bundled over for a breakthrough Blues try against the run of play. 

They took control thereafter and a more accomplished move from left to right allowed Addo-Carr to brush off Brimson's attempted tackle and stretch their advantage. 

But the Maroons stayed in touch and two debutants combined for a response 10 minutes after half-time, Kurt Capewell's awkward kick bouncing kindly into the clutches of Brimson for his first Origin score.

And the game was soon turned on its head when Dane Gagai's powerful running created space for Coates - another man making his bow at this level - to dash in on the right, with the extras from Cherry-Evans securing a first Queensland lead. 

Determined not to cede control just as their rivals had, the Maroons kept the pressure on and were rewarded as Munster toed the ball away from a scrambling Nathan Cleary and held off Cook to score. 

The Blues found a new burst of life in the final 10 minutes and belatedly moved with some urgency to again find Addo-Carr, who was able to dot down. 

Felise Kaufusi headed for the sin bin with 13 seconds remaining as NSW attempted an improbable recovery, but the reigning champions were left with too much to do.

Adelaide will host a State of Origin game for the first time when New South Wales and Queensland do battle in the 2020 series opener.

The first game of this year's series will be held at Adelaide Oval on November 4, it was confirmed on Tuesday.

Sydney will host game two a week later before the final clash in the series is played in Brisbane on November 18.

The 2020 State of Origin series is being played after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"State of Origin is the greatest rivalry in Australian sport and Australia's most watched television event," NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said.

"It transcends the two states and captivates the interests of the entire nation. We are excited to play this historic game in South Australia for the very first time.

"In recent years Origin has captivated Melbourne and Perth and we cannot wait to see how the people of Adelaide respond. The interest from states, outside New South Wales and Queensland, to host our showpiece event is extraordinary."

A plan around capacities at each venue is yet to be decided, with restrictions set to be in place due to COVID-19.

Blues coach Brad Fittler is confident about New South Wales' chances of winning a third straight series.

"I'm really looking forward to play in Adelaide for game one as it's such a historic venue and then we get the opportunity to play in front of our home fans in Sydney which is something that our players love to do," he said.

Fittler added: "I've been impressed with the character and resolve the team has displayed in winning the past two series and I'm confident we will do well if we do that again."

New South Wales coach Brad Fittler has extended his deal at the helm of the Blues to 2021.

Fittler has been in charge of the Blues since 2018 and last year led them to back-to-back State of Origin series wins for the first time since 2005.

The 48-year-old was pleased to extend his deal, with this year's Origin series set to be played in November.

"I am really grateful for the NSWRL [New South Wales Rugby League] board's strong show of faith in me and our Origin and pathways program," Fittler said.

"It also means my coaching future won't be a distraction throughout our preparation and defence of the Origin shield.

"I am really fortunate to have this job and it gives me great pride in seeing how much it unites the state.

"Given the year that the entire community has endured from droughts and bushfires to the COVID-19 pandemic, I can't think of a better way to end the year and lift community spirits. I can't wait for Origin."

NSWRL chief executive David Trodden said the board was delighted with Fittler's time in charge so far.

"Winning two from two series, the board obviously could not be happier with the way things are going with Origin and they were very pleased to extend Brad's contract when they met today," he said.

"They have every confidence the run of success will continue this year."

Steve Smith revealed he barely touched a cricket bat during lockdown, instead using the enforced break due to the coronavirus pandemic to switch off.

Cricket in Australia is preparing to kick into gear, having been suspended since March due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Former Australia captain Smith returned to training with New South Wales on Monday, along with international team-mates Mitchell Starc and David Warner.

After a gruelling year on the international and domestic fronts, Smith used the time off to focus on his fitness instead of his technique.

"I'm probably in the best shape I've been in in years, doing lots of running, lots of gym stuff at home. It's been a couple of months of good hard work," Smith said.

"I haven't touched a bat really, couple of little drills at home but that's about it. I've tried to switch off from it a little bit, which I don't do very often, but focusing on myself getting fit and strong and refreshing mentally, and when we get our chance to play again I'll be good to go.

"There are no nets or anything, so I've just been trying to switch off, I've done masterclasses at home that I've shared with a few people on Instagram and things like that.

"But other than that, I really haven't picked up my cricket bats. So it's been a bit different but I'm sure in the long run it's probably a good thing just to freshen up after what was a pretty long year, year-and-a-half."

The ICC look set to introduce a new rule to ban the use of spit to shine the ball once cricket returns, with bowlers often using saliva to assist with finding swing.

Smith suggested the rule change could hand the batting side an unfair advantage and hopes any changes to regulations maintain an even contest.

"I've always been one to want a fair contest between bat and ball, even as a batter, so if that's taken away I don't think that's great," he said. 

"Whether they can find different ways to do certain things. It'll be hard, I actually spit on my hands most balls, that's how I get grip and stuff.

"It might take some adjusting to get used to certain things like that, that's something for the ICC to figure out what they want to do going forward and making new regulations.

"We'll see where it all lands, everything is up in the air at the moment."

State of Origin will be played in November as the NRL released its full revised draw on Thursday.

The NRL is set to resume its season next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the marquee series between Queensland and New South Wales moved.

Origin will be played on November 4, 11 and 18, with venues yet to be finalised, it was announced on Thursday.

"The changes to the schedule this year have allowed Origin to be played after the grand final – which is a first for the game, 40 years after the birth of the country's biggest sporting rivalry," NRL interim chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

The NRL Grand Final is set to be held on October 25, with the season already reduced to a 20-round schedule.

The season restarts on May 28, when Brisbane Broncos will host Parramatta Eels.

 

Best round three Opta facts:

- Broncos v Eels: Parramatta have won four of their past six games against Brisbane.
- Cowboys v Titans: North Queensland are on a nine-match winning streak against Gold Coast.
- Roosters v Rabbitohs: South Sydney's Campbell Graham has crossed for a try in each of his past three NRL games.
- Warriors v Dragons: New Zealand have lost five of their past six NRL games played in Australia, with the defeats coming by an average margin of 20 points.
- Sharks v Tigers: Wests have lost their past six games against Cronulla.
- Storm v Raiders: These two teams are the only sides yet to concede a try in the first half of a game this season.
- Panthers v Knights: Penrith have won nine of their 12 games without Nathan Cleary, who is suspended, since his debut.
- Sea Eagles v Bulldogs: Canterbury have made 30 errors across their opening two NRL games of the season.

State of Origin will be played in November as the NRL released its full revised draw on Thursday.

The NRL is set to resume its season next week amid the coronavirus pandemic, with the marquee series between Queensland and New South Wales moved.

Origin will be played on November 4, 11 and 18, with venues yet to be finalised, it was announced on Thursday.

"The changes to the schedule this year have allowed Origin to be played after the grand final – which is a first for the game, 40 years after the birth of the country's biggest sporting rivalry," NRL interim chief executive Andrew Abdo said in a statement.

The NRL Grand Final is set to be held on October 25, with the season already reduced to a 20-round schedule.

The season restarts on May 28, when Brisbane Broncos will host Parramatta Eels.

 

Best round three Opta facts:

- Broncos v Eels: Parramatta have won four of their past six games against Brisbane.
- Cowboys v Titans: North Queensland are on a nine-match winning streak against Gold Coast.
- Roosters v Rabbitohs: South Sydney's Campbell Graham has crossed for a try in each of his past three NRL games.
- Warriors v Dragons: New Zealand have lost five of their past six NRL games played in Australia, with the defeats coming by an average margin of 20 points.
- Sharks v Tigers: Wests have lost their past six games against Cronulla.
- Storm v Raiders: These two teams are the only sides yet to concede a try in the first half of a game this season.
- Panthers v Knights: Penrith have won nine of their 12 games without Nathan Cleary, who is suspended, since his debut.
- Sea Eagles v Bulldogs: Canterbury have made 30 errors across their opening two NRL games of the season.

Queensland great Justin Hodges believes the Maroons can win the State of Origin series even if every game is played in Sydney.

It remains to be seen whether the series will go ahead due to the coronavirus pandemic, with travel restrictions meaning all three games could be played in New South Wales.

The Blues have won the past two series, but Hodges – who played 24 games for Queensland during his career – backed Kevin Walters' side to get the job done even if they were forced to play three away games.

"First of all, yes we can win," Hodges told Fox Sports on Sunday.

"It's always hard when you play on someone else's home turf, we always struggled down there in Sydney, but over the last few years the boys have really turned that around.

"It's always one of those grounds that we never really seemed to hit our straps, but the last few years the boys have been successful. We're always good when we play at home. We always seem to struggle when we play on AFL grounds, it's something that we haven't really gotten used to.

"Wherever the games are played, we've just got to put our best foot forward, I think that's the most important thing. I think to win competitions or to win Origin series, it doesn't matter where you play, it comes down to your mental attitude, your team's belief and making sure you've got the right game plan in place and having all 17 or 20-odd players that you use throughout the series all on the same page and that's what Origin's all about.

"Whether you have three games in Sydney, we don't care, we just want the Origin game to happen because we haven't had the shield for the past two years so we're keen to get it back up here in Queensland."

Brad Fittler believes the NRL should change to a fixture where each team plays every other once as it bids to resume amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It was announced on Thursday that the NRL is planning to resume its season on May 28 and play a full three-game State of Origin series.

Just what the competition looks like for the rest of the campaign remains to be seen, but Australia and New South Wales great Fittler backed a fixture where each team played every other once.

"I think the fact that they play each other once makes the most sense. I think that’s as fair as you can be," the Blues coach told Stats Perform.

"It still gives you time to play your Origins and your semi-finals and your season would finish only two months later than it would normally.

"There's been a bit of a collision coming up with the cricket and Channel Nine and I know that Channel Nine are very keen to make sure they're being considered in the negotiations as well so it will be interesting."

The NRL season was suspended last month due to COVID-19, which has killed more than 95,000 people worldwide.

Australia has seen more than 6,100 confirmed cases and 52 deaths.

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