NSW captain James Tedesco said he’s concerned State of Origin will be a different game in 2021 as the NRL continues its mission to stamp out dangerous contact with the head.
Just five days out from Origin teams being announced for game one on June 9, Tedesco said players were nervous small accidental contact could cost them a representative jersey.
Round 12 is the final chance for players to push their Origin selection case, but with a record 29 charges dished out over the weekend there is a sense of unease among the game’s elite.
“A lot of players are nervous, they don’t want to make any contact,” Sydney Roosters fullback Tedesco said on Tuesday.
“A lot of the time it’s accidental and there’s no malice in it, but you just can’t do it, you can’t make contact with the head because it’s getting punished very severely at the moment.
“There’s more awareness of being more controlled. I don’t think it’s about changing techniques, it’s about being aware.”
Already Blues hopeful Victor Radley has been ruled out of at least game one with suspension, while Queensland have lost firebrand Josh Papalii for the opener.
NSW second-rower Angus Crichton will fight his case at the judiciary on Tuesday night hoping to be free to play.
It follows an NRL-era record of 17 sin bins across the weekend, with only two matches untouched by the punishment.
While Tedesco can see the long-term benefits for player safety in the game’s crackdown, with more sin-bins and penalties he fears Origin could look very different to the usually brutal and free-flowing event fans expect to see.
“It’s for the consistency, if they’re doing it in the NRL they’ll do it in Origin I guess,” he said
“That could be a different game in Origin.
“Momentum could swing very quickly if something like that did happen.
“I see the crackdown is beneficial for player’s safety, I’m just not sure on the punishments and how severe they can be.”
It comes as NRL CEO Andrew Abdo vowed there would be no relaxing of the rule changes for the game’s showpiece three-game series.
His words came as a warning for players to either adapt their tackling technique, or risk punishment.
“We need to ensure that our game is relevant for the long term,” he said.
“The coaches and teams that adapt quicker to this are going to have an advantage.
“Our sport is incredibly competitive and therefore we’ll see people adjusting and learning pretty quickly.”