CAMERON Munster has warned the Blues he is about to get better as the Queensland Origin superstar sets his sights on becoming the NRL’s No.1 player this season.
Munster celebrated one of the highpoints of his career last November when he won the Wally Lewis Medal as State of Origin’s player of the series for spearheading Queensland’s boilover of the Blues.
The epic series win finished with Munster carving up the Blues in Game Three, the Queensland pivot toying with NSW defenders as the Maroons pulled off a historic 20-14 victory in the decider at Suncorp Stadium.
Munster has now amassed 10 Origin games for Queensland, and the 26-year-old believes he has only scratched the surface of his talent as he plots another series victory for the Maroons in the 2021 campaign.
“Winning for Queensland last year is up there with winning a grand final at the Storm,” said Munster, who underlined his commitment by carrying knee-ligament damage throughout the Origin series.
“The bond we had in camp was special, we had a lot of young blokes who put the team culture first and really responded to the coaching of Wayne Bennett.
“Personally, it was great to get the Wally Medal, but I still believe I’ve got improvement in me.
“I am working on my consistency and being more professional.
“When I am at my best, I am probably one of the better players in the game, but my preparation can be better.
“I’ve always been happy to be one of the boys who likes a good time. But with Cam Smith leaving at Melbourne this year, we need a new group of guys to step up and take leadership roles.
“That’s what I want to do for Melbourne this year and being more of a leader will help me in the Origin arena.”
For the first time in 20 years, Melbourne enter a new NRL season without the comforting presence of their champion skipper Smith, who is tipped to retire after captaining the Storm to the premiership last season.
In the past three seasons, the Storm have farewelled their much-vaunted Queensland Origin ‘Big Three’ of Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk – leaving Munster as the main man to spearhead a new Melbourne dynasty.
While Munster is not driven by statistics, rankings and critical analysis of his standing in the code, the Maroons match-winner vowed to be relentless in his quest to be hailed the best player in rugby league.
“It takes a lot of hard work to be No.1,” he said.
“It would be a nice little thing to my bow.
“You look at James Tedesco (Roosters and NSW fullback). He works really hard on his game and everyone touts him as the best player in the game, and he deserves it.
“To be in the top four names would be nice.
“I don’t want to go around chasing accolades. A lot of critics have opinions, and that’s fine. I just have to play good footy for my club and if I do that, a lot of people will think it’s me (who is No.1).
“If I worry about what everyone says about being the best player in the game, I could go away from what works for me.
“Off the field, I have some stuff to work on. If I can still be a larrikin off the field and make sure I’m the same player on the field, hopefully I’m on the right path to being No.1.”
Queensland will be banking on Munster’s magic to deliver back-to-back crowns this season under new Maroons coach Paul Green.
In one remarkable play in last year’s Origin decider, Munster kicked the ball three times in 17 seconds to orchestrate a try for winger Edrick Lee when little was happening.
It was the type of instinctive play that former Queensland halfback Langer was famous for, and Bennett said there were similarities between Munster and ‘Alfie’.
“He is different to a lot of the guys I’ve coached at five-eighth,” Bennett said.
“He is just a footballer, he knows the game and has a great instinct for it. He makes things happen when nothing is happening because he’s not thinking too much about it.
“He has got a lot of Allan Langer-type characteristics about him. He can make it happen. He doesn’t need a plan to play to, he just backs his instinct.”
While Munster has one eye on the 2021 Origin series, he is also determined to lead Melbourne to a summit they have yet to climb – winning consecutive premierships.
“Hopefully we go back-to-back,” Munster said. “If we want to stamp our authority on the game and be known as a good team, that’s something we can do.
“I can’t see why we can’t achieve it. The club has never gone back-to-back before, we have won a lot of minor premierships two years in a row, but we haven’t gone to the big dance twice in a row and won it.
“Hopefully we can do something similar to the Roosters, but it will take a lot of hard work.”