STATE OF ORI­GIN Slater may be forced to rest

Townsville Bulletin - - STATE OF ORIGIN - TRAVIS MEYN

“It’d be the most sat­is­fy­ing, I reckon, no doubt about that given the in­juries we’ve had and the per­son­nel that are un­avail­able,” Smith said.

“Inglis and ( Matt) Scott ( for the se­ries), Dar­ius ( Boyd) for this game, JT ( Johnathan Thurston) for two of the games. There’s a lot of guys there with a lot of tal­ent and a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence at this level.

“It would be a huge ef­fort. Even if those guys were avail­able it would still be a huge ef­fort needed to beat NSW.

“It’d be pretty sat­is­fy­ing but we’re not at all get­ting ahead of our­selves and think­ing about how good it would be to win the se­ries. We know there’s a lot of hard work in front of us to be at that point at the 80th minute to be ahead on the score­board.

“Our fo­cus is purely on our last ses­sion and then mak­ing sure that we de­liver an 80minute per­for­mance be­cause we haven’t done that thus far this se­ries.

“I think we owe that to our fans and ev­ery­one in Queens­land.”

Smith has been the long­est serv­ing Ma­roon in Ori­gin his­tory, mak­ing his de­but in Game Three of 2003 and only miss­ing one match since.

The Ma­roons are go­ing through a tran­si­tional pe­riod which has seen Thurston play his fi­nal Ori­gin game and Storm duo Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater yet to com­mit be­yond 2017.

Coach Kevin Wal­ters has blooded eight new play­ers this se­ries and is hope­ful he will not lose the crux of his squad in one year.

Smith is yet to put a time frame on his ten­ure and is de­ter­mined to lead Queens­land into a new era of Ori­gin dom­i­nance be­fore hand­ing over the man­tle.

“It’s been a bit of a shock to the sys­tem the last cou­ple of years with Corey Parker fin­ish­ing up and Johnathan Thurston this year, but the time had to come, you can’t go on for­ever,” he said.

“Un­for­tu­nately there are a lot of guys who have been part of this team for a long time that are go­ing to fin­ish their Ori­gin ca­reers.

“I still feel re­ally good men­tally and phys­i­cally and still en­joy com­ing into camp and com­pet­ing at this level.

“When that de­sire or hunger is gone I will know it is time to put my hand up and say ‘ give an­other bloke a go’.”

When Smith re­tires, Greg Inglis is favoured to step into the Ma­roons cap­taincy but Wal­ters is hop­ing he does not have to con­tem­plate mak­ing that ap­point­ment for a while.

“They can’t all just leave at once. Drip feed­ing is the best way,” Wal­ters said.

“I’d like to think that Cameron will be there next year.

“Cameron is one of those guys that we think can squeeze an­other year out of.” THE Ma­roons could be forced to rest full­back Billy Slater from their fi­nal train­ing ses­sion to pre­serve him for to­mor­row’s State of Ori­gin de­cider.

Slater is un­der­go­ing in­tense treat­ment to over­come an an­kle in­jury in time for the block­buster show­down against NSW at Sun­corp Sta­dium.

Today’s cap­tain’s run is tra­di­tion­ally a ses­sion to fine­tune team plays and de­fence struc­tures and it would be far from ideal for Slater to sit on the side­lines.

But Ma­roons med­i­cal staff are con­scious he could ag­gra­vate the prob­lem, which would se­ri­ously af­fect his fitness on game day.

If Slater stays off his feet today he will be in a bet­ter po­si­tion to play through pain in the game, with skip­per Cameron Smith say­ing it was not cru­cial for the 28- Ori­gin vet­eran to train.

“I would much rather he be right to go on Wed­nes­day night rather than push him into a cap­tain’s run and he pulls up sore again,” Smith said.

“We don’t par­tic­u­larly need him there for the cap­tain’s run. We have done our main ses­sions on Fri­day and Sun­day, that’s when we got most of our work done.

“For Bill not to take part in that cap­tain’s run is not go­ing to worry us at all.

“Given the way Bill has pulled up it all looks ex­tremely pos­i­tive for him to be there and for us to go out as the 17 named.”

The Ma­roons are so con­fi­dent Slater will play they have not drafted in ex­tra play­ers to cover his po­ten­tial ab­sence.

Bench util­ity Ben Hunt trained at five- eighth at times dur­ing Sun­day’s ses­sion when Cameron Mun­ster shifted to full­back.

If Slater does not play, that is the likely change coach Kevin Wal­ters would make, with Bron­cos hooker An­drew McCul­lough com­ing on to the bench.

While Johnathan Thurston will not play an­other game for Queens­land fol­low­ing his rep­re­sen­ta­tive re­tire­ment, and Cooper Cronk to pos­si­bly fol­low suit, Smith said he didn’t ex­pect Slater to give the game away this year.

“Bill’s a lit­tle bit dif­fer­ent. I think he’s very keen to play on. It’s just whether he feels his body’s up to it,” he said.

“His body has taken a bat­ter­ing over his ca­reer. He’s had in­juries to his knees, his an­kles, his shoul­ders and quite se­ri­ous in­juries as well.

“It’s whether he feels he can get through firstly a pre­sea­son of train­ing and then get­ting through an­other rig­or­ous sea­son of foot­ball.

“Whether he feels he’s up to it, whether he can put 100 per cent into that be­cause I know Bill has al­ways been about play­ing at 100 per cent.

“It’s not go­ing in at 80 per cent. It’s all or noth­ing for Billy. He’s prob­a­bly wait­ing more to­ward the end of the year to see how he feels.”

The Ma­roons shifted their camp from Sanc­tu­ary Cove on the Gold Coast to Bris­bane yes­ter­day.

COT­TON WOOL: The Ma­roons may keep Billy Slater from par­tic­i­pat­ing in their fi­nal train­ing ses­sion to avoid ag­gra­vat­ing an an­kle in­jury and en­sure he can play to­mor­row night.

Boyd Cord­ner.

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