RUGBY LEAGUE: Maroons captain Cameron Smith denies there’s a lack of motivation within his playing group, despite having already wrapped up this year’s Origin series before tomorrow night’s dead rubber in Sydney.
All the pressure is on the hosts, with reports Blues coach Laurie Daley could lose his job if New South Wales is whitewashed for the first time since 2010.
It was the Blues that were thrashed 32-8 in the dead-rubber game three in 2014 after the immense pressure of snapping Queensland’s eight-series streak was finally over.
Smith has promised Maroons fans that coach Kevin Walters has not let complacency creep into the team leading into this game.
“If anything, I think Kev’s made this training camp a lot more intense than it has been in the first two matches,” Smith said.
“Because that’s the issue we can fall into – a bit of complacency in this game, given we have already wrapped up this series.
“No matter the result we get to lift the shield, but in saying that the result does matter to us.
“The result matters to everyone up here in Queensland, so we’re going down there to make it 3-0 – there’s no secret about it.”
Hearing the phrase “we need to start well and be ready” is a common cliche in rugby league.
But in this case, Smith was not using those words lightly.
That is because the Maroons have nine players over the age of 30, while the Blues have a handful of youngsters – James Tedesco, Josh Mansour, Wade Graham, Tyson Frizell, Matt Moylan and Jack Bird – playing in their first Origin series.
Tedesco and Graham will make their NSW debuts in front of an ANZ Stadium crowd that might only attract 60,000 or less at the 83,500-seat venue.
“They’ve opted to bring in a couple of new players for this game – a couple of young guys,” Smith said.
“And they’re looking slightly towards next year, so we can’t afford to go down there and not be ready.
“We are ready, so that’s important for this game – to make sure we start that way and start with a lot of energy.”
Of course, this Maroons team is one of the best rugby league teams ever assembled, despite the number of players over 30.
So it is no surprise that Smith has urged freakish five-eighth Johnathan Thurston, 33, to play on after next year’s series.
North Queensland’s premiership-winning co-captain will play a record 36th consecutive Origin tomorrow night, but recently said he could retire from Queensland commitments after the 2017 series.
“He probably thought he’s achieved everything he wants to achieve,” Smith said.
“If he wants to finish next year then that’s his decision and we’ll gladly wish him good luck.
“If he’s playing well and is the best man for the job then I’d like to see him play as long as he can.”
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.