Hunt not only Maroon to blame: McGregor
Ben Hunt of the Maroons sits on the pitch as NSW Blues players celebrate winning Game 2 of the 2018 State of Origin series between the NSW Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Sunday, June 24, 2018. (AAP Image/David Moir)
St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has lashed out at critics of star halfback Ben Hunt, saying the Queensland No.7 wasn't the only player to blame for their State of Origin II defeat.
Hunt has been savaged in the aftermath of the Maroons series-deciding defeat, particularly during the crucial 10-minute period when NSW were down to 12 men and he cannoned a early-tackle kick dead.
Former Maroons great Justin Hodges has already called for Hunt to be axed for game three, while ex-Queensland coach Mal Meninga is also believed to be in favour of moving Hunt to hooker.
But ahead of Thursday's NRL match against Parramatta, McGregor leapt to Hunt's defence.
"I think he copped a lot of criticism around one kick, maybe two kicks," McGregor said on Wednesday.
He admitted Hunt should've done better with the kick, but has performed admirably in his first shot at the key role of being the Maroons' chief playmaker following the retirement of Cooper Cronk.
McGregor argued Hunt was stationed on the opposite edge of sin-binned Blues centre James Roberts.
"(But) if we're holding him on that kick, if you're going to kick early, you've got to execute it. And he didn't," McGregor said.
"However, if you're holding him on the other 75 minutes of that game and the 80 minutes of the other game, I thought he went fine.
"We're making a heavy-handed decision around one kick that he didn't execute. Obviously, the other one he didn't execute, but Queensland got the ball back because Latrell (Mitchell) turned the ball over.
"There's a lot of other moments and opportunities in that game, and people involved in that set, not just one person."
McGregor urged Hunt, who is widely considered one of the best buys of the NRL this season, to quickly respond against last-placed Parramatta on Thursday.
"It's important that Ben plays for his club, and he wants to play for his club.
"I think things are a little bit heavy-handed on a couple of things that happened on Sunday night. There was other opportunities for other players during the game.
"Ben's just got to move forward and the best way to do that is playing footy."
© AAP 2018