Rules create Origin uncertainty for Welch

·3-min read

Queensland front-rower Christian Welch fears State of Origin will lose the grind that makes it such a compelling contest under rugby league's new rules.

The Maroons undertook their first training session on the Gold Coast for next Wednesday's series opener, which will be the first interstate match played under the expanded six-again regulations.

Star five-eighth Cameron Munster (foot) appears on track to play in game one at Townsville after taking part in training on Thursday at CBUS Super Stadium but AJ Brimson (knee) was a notable no-show before assembled media were shut out of the venue.

Munster's Melbourne teammate Harry Grant (hamstring) also trained and looks a near-certainty to feature in the No.9 jersey against NSW.

Their Storm premiership-winning clubmate Welch is, however, concerned the game's new rules and the crackdown on contact with the head threatens to spoil what makes Origin special.

"As a bit of a purist you love those kind of arm wrestle, field-position battles," Welch said.

"The 8-6, 10-6 scorelines and I used to love seeing that; teams having to fight so hard to get out of their own end.

"We just don't see that. It's kind of end-to-end footy now, very high scorelines.

"For me it's not that appealing but to new fans and broadcasters it might be.

"That's what Origin's been, it's been about that grind, the arm-wrestle, the real gritty style of rugby league game.

"I guess we'll see if that's continued on Wednesday."

In the 2020 series the six-again rule was limited solely to ruck infringements but this year it has been expanded to include 10-metre infringements.

Combined with players being sin-binned or sent-off as part of a high-contact crackdown, Welch said there's an element of the unknown about how this year's Origin campaign will play out.

"It's hard to compare Origin and NRL these days with the amount of rule changes," he said.

"You don't actually know what kind of game or product it is going to be like. There used to be a pretty distinct difference."

Maroons coach Paul Green is understood to be eager to speak to match officials in the build-up to Game I in a bid to clarify if they'll be any difference in rule interpretations or leniency for Origin.

Welch said regardless the officials won't be the issue for him and his teammates.

"No one's against the referees, it's just a different style of footy with these rules and it's a bit different to what we're used to," he said.

"It's not a negative thing and they're doing their best, it's tough for those guys going from two refs down to one.

"They've got a lot of stuff to watch so yeah, good luck, to them."

The Maroons will train on the Gold Coast again on Friday morning in what could be a crucial session for Brimson, who was likely to play the utility role off the bench next week.

If the Titans speedster is unavailable, Parramatta rake Reed Mahoney would appear the frontrunner to replace him.