Impossible to replace Smith's Origin class: McCullough

Impossible to replace Smith's Origin class: McCullough

Andrew McCullough concedes Cameron Smith will be irreplaceable as he targets fulfilling a dream of playing for Queensland that has been 23 years in the making.

The Brisbane hooker, who is battling Jake Friend and Jake Granville to replace Smith as the Maroons No.9, was five years old when he watched Paul Vautin’s unfancied Queensland outfit romp to a 3-0 series victory in 1995.

That lit a fire in the young lad from the western Queensland town of Dalby who will find out on Monday week whether he will live his dream.

"I am lucky and privileged to even be spoken about," McCullough said after the Broncos’ 28-22 win over the Sydney Roosters.

"When I was a kid of five years old I watched the Maroons win that [1995] series as underdogs on cold winter’s nights when Brett Dallas ran the length of the field to score and Fatty was the coach.

"Just the thought of it is pretty crazy and gives me goosebumps."

This time last week the 28-year-old Bronco was looking ahead to a club bye and a bit of rest and relaxation before the Holden State of Origin series.

Smith’s decision to retire from the representative arena caught everyone by surprise, including McCullough who was in the middle of a gym session at Broncos HQ when the news broke.

"It is an exciting time and a strange one. It is something that has just popped up out of the blue," McCullough said.

"It was out of left field for me and for the majority of Australia.

"Cam's had some crazy achievements. For what he did for the game he needed all the respect in the world to celebrate what he has done as a tremendous advocate for Queensland rugby league for a long time.

"Whoever gets that No.9 jersey cannot replace Cameron. They've just got to be themselves and compete hard for Kevvie [Walters] and those boys.

"I'd always like to think that I've done enough and competed hard but I am not a selector and I don't want to look silly if they don't want to pick me.

"Friendy played well [for the Roosters against Brisbane] and is a tough competitor and great mate of mine. Jake Granville is doing some great things up at the Cowboys and is another guy who is a close mate of mine."

McCullough has been brought into Maroons camp to train on several occasions and learned a lot.

“No matter who is in that team they made you feel comfortable and made you feel welcome. Johnno [Thurston], Cam, Coops [Cooper Cronk] all asked you to come for coffees and they didn’t have to do that but they made you feel comfortable within the playing group."