Until he hears otherwise from the man himself, ex-Queensland coach Mal Meninga isn’t expecting Cameron Smith to backtrack on his State of Origin retirement.
Calls for Maroons coach Kevin Walters to issue an SOS to Smith are growing after Andrew McCullough became the latest Queensland-eligible hooker to be injured.
McCullough hurt his knee at training for NRL club Brisbane on Monday, putting him doubt for the Origin opener on June 5 in Brisbane.
With Sydney Roosters rake Jake Friend (biceps) already out of contention, the options for Walters are growing increasingly limited.
Smith retired from representative rugby league before last year’s series and Walters told AAP on Monday he would not be asking the 35-year-old to extend his 42-game Origin career.
Meninga won nine Origin series between 2006 and 2015 as Queensland coach with Smith a crucial part of that success.
He isn’t joining the chorus of those demanding Smith be picked, however.
“That’s up to Kevvie and Cameron,” Meninga said.
“Obviously the latest mail is Cameron’s gonna be true to his word and he always has been that, he’s always been honest and open and transparent.
“Kevvie and the players will do a fantastic job no matter who they pick.”
Smith told Fox Sports on Sunday he would consider a return if asked and to “never say never”.
With McCullough likely to face a stint on the sidelines, North Queensland No.9 Jake Granville is firming as a favourite to make his Origin debut – should there be no recall for the ex-Maroons skipper Smith.
St George Illawarra half Ben Hunt is also a hooking option, while he could also be deployed from the bench as he was in Origin III last year.
Gorden Tallis says Hunt is the “obvious choice” to wear the Maroons No.9, even if he too is dreaming of a Smith return.
“Like an Allan Langer coming back, like a Wally Lewis, Arthur Beetson,” Tallis told reporters at Fox League’s NRL Magic Round launch.
“He may not want that, but the challenge is there for him to take.
“There wouldn’t be enough bronze for all the statues that he could have at every ground he played at (if he made a successful return).”
© AAP 2019