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.”
James Tedesco won’t be back after failing his HIA test
— NRL (@NRL) November 18, 2020
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.”