Klein retains Origin gig but Fittler rates Atkins best referee

Brad Fittler rates Grant Atkins the best referee in the game, but always expected Ashley Klein to be re-appointed for Origin II.

There was a collective groan overheard at Blues training on Tuesday at the posh Hale School in Perth when word filtered through to the west that Klein would be in charge again on Sunday night.

It has been well documented NSW were unimpressed with some of the decisions made by Klein during the 16-10 game-one loss in Sydney, including Junior Paulo being held back in a scrum when Daly Cherry-Evans scored, and the late hits on Nathan Cleary when he kicked.

Fittler was diplomatic when asked about Klein’s appointment and told the Herald: I assumed he would always get the job. We go into this game with a better understanding of how it will be refereed, and we look forward to it.

There will be less penalties. There was a real effort to keep the game moving in Sydney.

Fittler before the first game to raise some concerns, including the kick pressure on Cleary, and again picked up the phone in the days that followed the Sydney loss.

I sent through a couple of things to Jared and got a response, Fittler said.

At the end of the day they thought there were a few things that could have been ruled on that weren’t.

The try with Junior Paulo, they said it was OK, which in my 50 years of experience, I’ll agree to disagree.

We also spoke to them about [Cleary] before the game, but they give more leeway in those situations, which is fine. They let the game go and allow more intensity in the game, and that’s what it is all about.

We need to come up with a better way [to protect Cleary]. We can do a lot more than the referee, put it that way.

Everyone tries to get to the kicker, it’s a matter of getting a lot of things right to be in the position to do that.

We need to be in a better position for Nathan, We basically need to be better.

When pressed on his thoughts about who deserved top billing when it came to the NRL whistleblowers, Fittler said: Grant Atkins is doing a good job.

It was Klein who refused to pull up a few North Queenslanders from hitting Cleary late at Penrith in the final lead-up game to Origin I.

Cleary told the Herald on Monday when it came to combating Queensland’s kick pressure.

They [Queensland] did a good job in the first game, they had great kick pressure and got to me a few times, [but] I need to be better, Cleary said.

I’ll try and get myself into better spots. I’ll watch video and see where the pressure is coming from and work around that.

It’s a part of footy, especially in Origin, and it’s on me to fix it.

The Blues completed their first training run under brilliant blue skies at the prestigious school where Australian cricket legend Geoff Marsh coaches the first XI.

Cameron Murray and Payne Haas, who are recovering from shoulder injuries, wore a different shade of blue as a precaution, letting their teammates know to avoid contact during the session.

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