Nathan Peats hopes Blues' Indigenous edge sparks passion
NATHAN Peats hopes an injection of Aboriginal players into the NSW State of Origin side will draw more indigenous fans back to their Blues' allegiance.
The Gold Coast playmaker, who will make his Origin debut in the No.9 vacated by the dumped Robbie Farah in Brisbane on Wednesday, said a lot of Aboriginal people he knows from his home state did back the Maroons.
"A lot of people I know from Sydney who are Aboriginal go for Queensland because NSW apparently never pick any. So it's good to have five (Aboriginal players) in the team," Peats said from the Blues' Origin camp at Kingscliff on Thursday.
"With (coach Laurie Daley) it'll be six, so hopefully some of those people can swing back and start going for NSW."
His comments come as the country marks the 50th anniversary of the successful referendum on Indigenous rights.
The long-running debate has firmly placed Queensland as the side which provides more opportunity for Aboriginal players, with the likes of top Indigenous talent including David Peachey, Anthony Mundine and Preston Campbell either not picked or barely used by NSW.
Australian representative Nathan Blacklock, who topped the NRL's try-scoring ladder in three consecutive seasons between 1999 and 2001, was never picked for NSW before switching to rugby.
The issue came to a head back in 2010 when NSW player Timana Tahu walked out on the Origin side amid allegations of racism.
Fuelled by racism claims at the time by their Queensland rivals, an angry Blues camp were forced to slam talks of selection by race.
But Peats, one of five indigenous players including stars Andrew Fifita and Blake Ferguson who was named for the Blues for game one of the 2017 series, defended NSW Rugby's selection.
"NSW has always been bagged for not picking (Aboriginal) players, but I'm not one of those players who would say that," Peats said.
"To be fair, you don't get your GI's (Greg Inglis), Justin Hodges, all these blokes. If they were from NSW they'd be getting picked straight away."