Thurston: Inglis the man to skipper Maroons
Johnathan Thurston believes Greg Inglis is the perfect player to bridge the gap between Queensland's golden generation and the new breed of Maroons looking to maintain their dominance over NSW.
Smith shocked the NRL on Tuesday by announcing his representative retirement but Thurston knew about it beforehand after his long-time Maroons and Kangaroos teammate gave him a call.
With halfback Cooper Cronk joining Thurston and Smith in farewelling the representative arena, Inglis is the heavy favourite to assume the Queensland captaincy when Kevin Walters names his team for the June 6 Holden State of Origin series opener.
"I think it's another big decision for Kevvy to make, obviously Matty Scott has been involved in the side for a number of years as well so he could put his hand up to do the captaincy," Thurston said.
"The obvious choice would be Greg Inglis, over 30 games in there and from all reports, his leadership has grown at South Sydney and he's playing some really good football.
"Boys just follow GI, so having the 'c' next to his name, hopefully it makes him unstoppable."
When Smith told Thurston before he announced his decision publicly, it came as a huge surprise to his partner in crime from their junior days.
"I spoke to him a couple of days beforehand, he was just letting those close to him know what he was thinking and what he was doing," Thurston said.
"I got a bottle of nice red out of my cupboard and cracked that and had a couple of drinks while we were on the phone.
"I was like everyone else, pretty shocked but fully supportive of his decision as well, he'd well and truly made up his mind by the time he spoke to me."
Thurston also spoke about Smith's glittering representative career and paid credit to what he'd done for Queensland, Australia and the game of rugby league.
"It's been an incredible career, that's for sure, in that arena he holds just about every record in the green and gold, and the maroon, it was a pleasure to play alongside him and we've got some great memories together," he said.
Thurston could be forgiven for nominating Cowboys teammate Jake Granville as the ideal replacement for Smith at hooker for Queensland but he believes Brisbane's Andrew McCullough should get the nod.
"It's a tough one, I'd probably have to say McCullough at this stage, he's played over 200 first grade games, he's got a kicking game as well, he plays with a lot of the boys in that system, obviously got a great relationship with Benny Hunt if he's chosen at seven as well," he said.
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As for who would stand at first receiver for McCullough, the options are a but more varied, but Thurston was adamant it wouldn't be him.
"Really scraping the barrel there if [Kevin Walters] is coming back to me. We've got some really exciting halves that are playing," Thurston said.
"It's a new era for the Queensland side and I'm really excited about what lies ahead with the team and the systems that we have in place that the blokes that played before me put in place."