Smith will hold on to record, says JT
HE IS arguably one of the greatest and most decorated rugby league players to have pulled on a boot.
But Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston gives himself little hope of claiming one special record - the most State of Origin games played.
That record, he says, will stay with his Maroons teammate and Queensland captain Cameron Smith, "for a long time".
Smith will take the record from fellow Queensland legend Darren Lockyer when he plays his 37th Origin in Game I in Sydney after debuting in the third game of 2003 in Wayne Bennett's last Origin as coach.
"The boy from Logan sits at the top of the Origin tree now and it's quite an achievement, I'm proud of him," Thurston told Australian Regional Media.
Thurston broke out his all-too-familiar cackle when I suggested to him he may be the one to catch Smith in a few years. "I don't think anyone is going to catch him," he laughed.
"There have been some legends in our game of Origin since it started way back in 1980, and Cameron is one of them ... right up there with the very best.
"You feel like you are never going to lose with Smithy in the team. That's just the aura that he has."
The same could be said for Thurston after his grand final exploits for the Cowboys against Brisbane last October, not to mention the many other times he has stepped up to win NRL and Origin games.
The battle is now on in earnest between them, with Smith, who turns 33 next month, leading by three games. The Storm skipper is super fit, however, and looks like he could easily go around for another two or three more years, meaning he could, barring injury, lift his Origin tally into the mid-40s.
Thurston turned 33 last month.
Like Smith, he is showing no signs of slowing down and has two more years left with North Queensland.
He is Origin's iron man, having played an amazing, almost unimaginable 33 successive games for Queensland since 2005.
He is the only player to appear in all 24 games as Queensland streaked to a record eight straight series wins between 2005 and 2013.
Smith played in 23 of those games - missing just one game with an elbow injury when Manly's Matt Ballin filled in at hooker. It's become an absorbing battle between two great players, two great mates and two great blokes - and still has a few more twists left to play out.