Kiwi-born league star stirs up on­line Aussie haters af­ter post­ing kiss photo. By Ian An­der­son.

Sunday News - - FRONT PAGE -

THE NRL has hit back at crit­ics of a photo of two rugby league play­ers from ri­val teams kiss­ing af­ter the end of the women’s in­au­gu­ral State of Ori­gin match on Fri­day night.

The photo cap­tured an em­brace be­tween NZ-born NSW player Vanessa Fo­li­aki and Queens­lan­der Ka­rina Brown in the mid­dle of the pitch fol­low­ing the end of the game.

The cou­ple, who have been to­gether since 2014, are usu­ally team­mates for the na­tional league squad, the Jil­la­roos, but faced off against each other for a com­pet­i­tive match on ri­val teams in the Ori­gin match.

The photo was shared by NRL and Women’s Rugby League on Face­book with the cap­tion ‘‘#OurWay’’, but gen­er­ated a mixed re­sponse.

Re­ply­ing to one critic who had said on Face­book that the photo was a ‘‘bad idea’’, the NRL wrote: ‘‘Wel­come to 2018... can’t wait for you to join us!’’

The NRL also hit back against com­ments sug­gest­ing the NRL was ‘‘sex­u­al­is­ing’’ the game by shar­ing the photo.

‘‘If we can post ... Cooper Cronk and his wife Tara kiss­ing, then we can share a photo of Ka­rina Brown and Ness Fo­li­aki shar­ing a mo­ment too,’’ the NRL wrote.

Mean­while, oth­ers ex­pressed the usual New South Wales v Queens­land ri­valry at the cross­bor­der re­la­tion­ship, com­ment­ing on the photo: ‘‘How can some­one kiss a Queens­lan­der?’’

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