Melbourne, Queensland and Australia rugby league captain Cameron Smith has announced that he is retiring from representative duties, effective immediately. He made the announcement that he has played his last game for Queensland and Australia yesterday, with the intention of prolonging his career with the Melbourne Storm.
With the 2018 State of Origin series starting in 3 weeks, Queensland coach Kevin Walters is faced with needing a new hooker, goal-kicker and captain. As soon as the news broke, the odds on New South Wales to win game 1 and the series shortened dramatically.
Since his Origin debut in 2003, Cameron Smith has only missed a single game for Queensland, when he was suspended in 2010. He was also famous for his ability to back up and play for the Storm just 3 or 4 days after an Origin clash. Last year, however, Smith had to rest on the weekend after each Queensland match. In retrospect, this was probably the main sign for him that he couldn’t continue playing representative football forever.
This year will also be the first in a long time for Queensland without Jonathon Thurston and Cooper Cronk. With all three of their long-term playmakers retiring, they will be short on both experience and combinations. Fullback Billy Slater and Centre Greg Inglis will be the favourites to take ovwer the captaincy, but there is no doubt that winning the series will be a big task from here.
Bronco’s hooker Andrew McCullough is the man in the box seat to take over the hooking duties, but he will have big shoes to fill. Cameron Smith has been the dominant figure in the Queensland team since the retirement of Darren Lockyer, and he will not be easy to replace.
The line of great Queensland players looks to be running dry at last with Cameron Smith, Jonathon Thurston and Cooper Cronk on the sidelines. The huge loss of experience will strengthen the candidacy of Daly Cherry-Evans for a halves spot, and give NSW their best chance of a dominant win in more than a decade.