Maroons captain Cameron Smith says he holds no fears about being the skipper
Maroons captain Cameron Smith says he holds no fears about being the skipper at the helm of a Queensland side facing its first series loss in seven years.
The Maroons have named their squad for this year’s series decider, to be played at Suncorp Stadium on July 4.
Matt Bowen, Dane Nielsen and Ben Te’o were among the new faces included for Game III, with injury clouds over a number of key players – and the early withdrawal of Ash Harrison – forcing Mal Meninga and the selectors to select a couple of safety nets.
Smith will again lead the Maroons after he was handed the Queensland captaincy on a permanent basis this season following the retirement of champion pivot Darren Lockyer, who inspired the Maroons to a record six consecutive series triumphs.
Lockyer was renowned for his cool head and inspirational leadership qualities in clutch moments, but Smith insists he feels no pressure to emulate the standards of excellence set by his predecessor.
"Not really, I don't even think about it," Smith said.
"I know the headlines going around is that there is a lot of pressure on me going on what Locky did.
"To be honest, I don't feel that pressure, I know if we play well we are a good chance of winning game three.
"If we are to lose the series, as long as the boys play well that's all I can ask of them. I don't feel the pressure of leading the team out because I know everytime I go on the field I give my all and if NSW beat us, as long as we give our all as a team I'm satisfied."
Smith, also the Test and Melbourne skipper, admits he isn't burdened by the captaincy because of the wealth of experience permeating the Queensland side.
Nor does he feel the need to imitate Lockyer's captaincy style.
"I think we have four or five club captains in this team so there's plenty of experience," Smith says.
It is hard to believe Smith is playing his 10th season of Origin football. He made his debut as a 20-year-old in 2003 and plays his 27th Origin match in this year's decider.
Remarkably, Smith is on course to set a playing record that may never be beaten.
Just turned 29, Smith could ostensibly wear the Maroon jumper for another four or five seasons – which would see him become the first player in interstate history to play 40 Origin matches.
Lockyer is the current record holder with 36.
The Maroons skipper himself chuckles as he recalls his Origin debut in the dead-rubber match of 2003, when he managed a try in Queensland's 36-6 consolation victory.
"I was nervous as hell but I never showed it," he said.
"I remember how nervous I felt on the bus ride to the game. I was thinking I don't want to let anyone down here, I wasn't worried about whether I thought I was good enough or whether I could handle it, I just didn't want to let anyone down.
"It was a big deal to be given the chance to play Origin. I was only 20, I'd played about 15 first-grade games and Wayne Bennett gave me the call and brought me in.
"Once we got to the ground, I thought, 'This is what I want to do for a living'.
"Like every kid growing up in Queensland in the 1980s, Wally Lewis was The King for me. But I always used to love watching Michael Hancock (former Maroons winger). I used to always run around the backyard trying to be like him.
"We were a real rugby league family so I'd wear my Queensland jersey to school on Origin day then come home and we'd have dinner early to watch the game."
Smith said the challenge ahead of the Queensland team in Game III was enormous, with the Blues full of confidence after they leveled the series with a win in Game II in Sydney.
"It's always harder to maintain the record, it never gets easier," he said.
"Everytime you win another one the expectation grows even greater that you are going to win the following year.
"For us, we don't really think or talk about that expectation. We have our own expectation on ourselves to train really well during the week and play well on game night.
"But we don't think we've won the last six, we just need to turn up and we'll be right, we've got a great team and we'll do it before so it will happen.
"It's the opposite. With each win and each series win, NSW are getting hungrier to beat us."
The 20-man Queensland squad is: Matt Bowen, Darius Boyd, Petero Civoniceva, Cooper Cronk, Matt Gillett, Ben Hannant, Justin Hodges, Greg Inglis, Nate Myles, Dane Nielsen, Corey Parker, Matt Scott, David Shillington, Billy Slater, Cameron Smith ©, Brent Tate,David Taylor, Ben Te’o, Sam Thaiday, Johnathan Thurston