Melbourne enforcer Christian Welch believes “halfback bias” has crept into the game because of the huge number of former playmakers working in the media.
Welch terrorised Panthers No.7 Nathan Cleary in last year’s grand final, then again in Queensland’s successful Origin campaign last year.
The game’s most intelligent front-rower is sure to pile the pressure on Cleary again in the middle of Suncorp Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
While the issue of protecting playmakers came to a head on the eve of the finals when Penrith coach Ivan Cleary called for more protection for his son, Welch said all halfbacks were fair game.
“I’m only going to hit a guy if he still has the ball,” Welch said. “You try to make them kick a bit earlier. You want it in the back of his [Cleary] mind I’m coming for him rather than him just thinking about where he’s going to put his next kick.
“If I get there in time I’ll wrap them up and try to make my presence felt.”
Souths coach Wayne Bennett accused Penrith of using “blockers” to protect Cleary, but Welch said the “well-coached teams” did just that, and it was a smart tactic.
“Rugby league is a tough sport, there are tough parts to the job,” Welch said. “I have to run the ball back from the kick-off, I have to run the ball into a wall of five guys, and because there’s no threat of me passing they can just tee off on me.