Smith braces for Kiwi barrage
He is one of the busiest players on the rugby league field but even Cameron Smith knows he has a massive task in front of him every time he takes on New Zealand.
Making a lot of tackles and getting through plenty of work is part and parcel of Smith's job description, but playing against the Kiwis is always a tougher assignment than most.
New Zealand play with big forwards charging at the advantage line in the middle of the field, before their little men like Issac Luke, Jason Nightingale and Lewis Brown dart out of dummy-half at the first sign of tired legs.
While it means Smith faces a mountain of work controlling the middle of the field with his fellow forwards, it is a challenge he embraces.
"The Anzac game earlier this year I think I ended up making about 60 tackles. It gets quite busy through the middle," Smith said.
"Myself and the other forwards are keen for the challenge there. It is very important that we play well particularly against New Zealand.
"The way they play their game, they are nice and physical through the middle and then they have some great dummy-half runners that really test us out in the back half of each half."
The Kiwis traditionally play a flamboyant style of football with five-eighth Benji Marshall pulling the strings and attacking from anywhere on the pitch.
But with five debutants in the Kiwi line-up, the Australians admit preparing for the clash in Newcastle is harder than usual.
"There is a fair few new guys in their side for this game, so obviously they are untried at Test level," Smith said.
"But they have a great team, so this week has mainly been about us. We have seen a bit of footage of them, but we have been focusing on the way we want to play and we want to get away to a good start in this first game going into the Four Nations."
On the eve of the one-off Test, Smith says the combinations have struck up immediately, with the usual suspects leading the way.
The tried and tested backbone of Queensland's Origin dominance over NSW - Billy Slater, Darren Lockyer, Johnathan Thurston and Smith himself - has ensured a smooth and quick transition into the Australian jumper.
"It's been great, luckily for us a lot of the guys went deep into the finals, so we have only been out for a couple of weeks so the boys aren't too rusty," Smith said.
"Obviously Johnathan and Darren Lockyer back together, they work like clockwork with Billy at the back and myself at dummy-half. But it has been great to get the new guys in there for a run, Akuila Uate has been great all week and I'm really looking forward to him playing."
Uate was a revelation for NSW this year in their losing Origin campaign, with the Fijian-born winger establishing himself as one of the most damaging ball-runners in the game.
Smith expects the Novocastrian favourite to play a similar style on Sunday afternoon, getting into dummy-half and bending the defensive line back with strong carries.
"(Uate) did a great job in State of Origin, which is one of the toughest arenas you can play in," he said
"Hopefully he can get the big boys a bit of a break. When they need a rest, he can get back there and do some hit-ups for us.
"He is one of the most exciting players in the game at the moment and I know he has a huge following up here in Newcastle, so hopefully all the fans can get behind him and that will give us a bit of a buzz as well."