Queensland have added a further five players to their squad for next month’s State of Origin series.
Fed up Canberra coach Ricky Stuart complained of representative player inequality after a hat-trick to St George Illawarra captain Brett Morris helped to smash a 14-season NRL hoodoo in the nation’s capital.
Stuart followed up Saturday’s 34-16 NRL loss at Canberra Stadium with another classic post-match media conference, lamenting his lack of representative firepower to match the Dragons.
He pointed out six of the Dragons’ seven tries were scored by State of Origin or international players, with three going to Morris, two to Kiwi Jason Nightingale and one to ex-Raider and NSW star Josh Dugan.
He added they were running off two great internationals in Benji Marshall and Gareth Widdop in the halves – while the Raiders had just wrecking ball Josh Papalii representing them in Origin or the Four Nations.
“I’m not trying to make excuses. I’m just trying to tell you exactly how it is,” Stuart said.
“Josh (Papalii) knows himself he needs a rest. He’s our only representative player and we can’t leave it all hanging on him.
“Every fan and every supporter have been jamming into us, and they can bag us, but until I get Origin and international players in around that group of blokes there, it ain’t going to change.
“I’m getting sick of it – I’m getting fed up with just giving you the old one liner.”
It was Dugan who came back to haunt the club who sacked him last year, kickstarting a second-half comeback with a barnstorming try.
Four more Dragons tries followed in the final 30 minutes, leading them to their first win at Canberra Stadium in 14 seasons, and just their third against the Green Machine in 20 outings.
“It was good to belt out the song,” Morris said.
More importantly, it also keeps the Dragons’ finals hopes alive, snapping a two-game losing streak to be just one win outside the top eight.
Despite the blown-out scoreline, the visitors had to do it tough, and were dealt a big blow when captain Ben Creagh was ruled out pre-match with a slight hamstring tear – but is expected back next week.
And the Raiders weren’t short of spark either, fullback Jordan Rapana impressing in his first home game with 147 metres and a try.
The Raiders also started strongly, Papalii storming his way over in the second minute.
But the Dragons hit back immediately through Morris, who burrowed over from dummy-half, before crossing again from an overlap.
The Raiders earned a 12-10 lead at halftime through Rapana’s try, then extended that lead after the break thanks to Jarrod Croker’s 17th try for the season.
Yet the Dragons weren’t done, Dugan and Peter Mata’utia crossing to steal a two-point lead, before Nightingale jagged a pinpoint Marshall cross-field kick.
Morris then picked up his third, and Nightingale his second, with the duo scoring spectacular acrobatic tries in the corner within minutes of each other to finish in style.
“My last try, you don’t really have anywhere else to go but up,” Morris said.
“I was lucky enough just to sneak it in there.”
Raiders interchange Mitch Cornish was put on report for a crusher tackle on Morris in the second half, putting him at risk of missing next week’s clash with fellow wooden spoon contenders Cronulla.