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4 days ago
Former NSW rugby league skipper Ben Elias says Origin-appointed referee Paul Simpkins will be a liability for the Blues at next Wednesday's series opener at Brisbane.
But legendary Origin whistleblower Barry Gomersall has told Simpkins to "show the buggers how to do it" by following his gut - and even allowing some biff.
Simpkins on Wednesday earned selection for his second Origin match after his debut in 2004's game three at Sydney's Telstra Stadium.
But Elias, who starred in the Blues' first Origin series win in 1985, said nothing would prepare NSW-bred Simpkins for a trip to "The Cauldron" - and it may cost the visitors.
"You cannot tell me that the crowd's influence on the referee has not affected games - it will certainly make a difference up there," said Elias who played 19 Origins (1985, 1988-94).
"Any fine line (decision) will go their (Queensland's) way.
"That's Queensland's biggest advantage, the two games up there.
"They wait all year for this, the crowd eats raw meat up there just waiting for this game.
"If he's not a very experienced Origin referee, they (crowd) will take advantage of it.
"I reckon your second Origin is your hardest. And if the crowd see there's an iota of (nerves), they are going to let him know about it."
Simpkins was unveiled at an Origin 25th anniversary function at Sydney today - and was quickly accosted by the man affectionately known as "The Grasshopper".
A veteran of nine Origins from 1982-89 in which Queensland won seven, Gomersall said he told Simpkins to resist technology and let the game flow - even during the "softening up period".
"I said to Paul I went out there with 100 per cent positive mental attitude - you've got your backstabbers out there but you've got the match, others haven't," he said.
"You go out there and say `okay, I'll show you buggers how to do it' - and you've got to have that attitude."
Gomersall hoped Simpkins would follow his lead and "play on" if there was any fireworks.
"I hope he does. In this day and age he's got directions from above, the game has changed a bit, the referee doesn't have the autonomy out there that I used to have in my day," he said.
"But at Origin level, you get the opportunity to go out there and do it your way and I hope he does.
"And I'll ask you a question. Did you ever see anyone injured in any of my matches when I played on with fights?
"The play on rule works well. It's the quickest way to break up a fight that I know of - no one has proven that wrong."
Gomersall said Simpkins would be excited, not intimidated by Brisbane's pressure cooker atmosphere.
"I rate that (Simpkins at Brisbane) the same as my first match here at the SCG (in 1984) - I loved the fact that I had walked down the same stairs as people like Don Bradman," he said.
"Paul will feel the same at Lang Park. He will walk past those dressing rooms that players like Sterlo (Peter Sterling), (Paul) Vautin did and on a paddock that is one of the greatest grounds in the world - the atmosphere is unbelievable."