Captain Cam keeps faith
By Dan Walsh of NRL.com
They may be the first Queenslanders to taste an Origin series defeat in nine years, but skipper Cameron Smith says there will be no panic buttons being hit north of the border as he declared his side as arguably the greatest in rugby league history.
Speaking after NSW's historic 6-4 triumph at ANZ Stadium, which delivered the Blues their first series victory since 2005, Smith gave his side the highest possible praise in the wake of yet another thrilling Origin encounter.
"I'm extremely proud of the effort that they showed tonight, I'm extremely proud of the effort that they showed in Game One and for the last eight years that we've been involved together," Smith said.
"It's a disappointing feeling but at the same time we need to remember that we have done something very special over the last eight years," said Smith.
"I believe that, and I'm being a bit biased, but I'm pretty sure this will be the greatest Queensland side if not the best rugby league side that's ever played the game."
Smith, whose joint 31st birthday celebrations with fullback Billy Slater were dampened by the loss, was loathe to entertain any thought that a changing of the Maroons guard is on the horizon heading into Game Three, despite Justin Hodges (32), Brent Tate (32), Johnathan Thurston (31) and Jacob Lillyman (30), as well as injured lock Corey Parker (32), joining the Melbourne Storm pair as members of a Queensland side on the wrong side of 30.
"I think there will be a few down this side of the border asking questions about the makeup of our team in the future but to lose one series in the last nine years and then want to break up the side, I think that's outrageous," said Smith.
"We still believe we've got a great footy side in there. The two games have been decided by four points and then two points tonight.
"It could have gone either way in both games. Unfortunately it hasn't gone our way and I don't sit with the coach and selectors but I don't see any need to change the team at all."
Coach Mal Meninga was quick to allay any fears Smith had of wholesale changes being made ahead of the final clash at Suncorp Stadium on July 9, giving a wry smile at the suggestion of breaking up his champion side.
"We won't do that, that's not who we are," Meninga said.
In a spiteful encounter that saw Anthony Watmough, Josh Reynolds and Johnathan Thurston all placed on report, Smith was unperturbed by the constant niggling from both sides that carried on right up until the final minutes.
"Sometimes there's a bit of niggle, sometimes there's not and tonight there was a little bit more," said Smith.
"It felt like the Blues were a little bit frustrated by the way we were playing. I thought we played extremely well at the start.
"We had a lot of aggression, we weren't giving them too much when they had the footy and we knew we had to do that.
"I thought we did a really good job in that first 40. Just to hold our composure and control the game until the last 20 to 15 minutes.
"They scored that last try but that's Origin."