What Origin Means To: Cameron Smith
With the opening game of the 2014 Holden State of Origin Series now a matter of hours away, we ask Queensland captain Cameron Smith to relive his favourite moments and learn how Game Three of the 2006 Series shaped him as a leader.
Blues legend Peter Sterling described it in commentary as "a disgraceful decision".
Referee Steve Clark had asked the video referee to check on a possible knock-on by Blues fullback Brett Hodgson from a Craig Gower bomb that ended with Eric Grothe Jnr crossing for his second try of Game Three of the 2006 Origin Series.
The consensus among the Channel Nine commentary team was that the Blues were to be denied but when the green 'TRY' sign illuminated Melbourne's Telstra Dome, New South Wales were 10 points clear late in the second half and within reach of a fourth straight Series win.
It sent the majority of Maroons players into a rage behind the tryline but despite the precariousness of not only the game and the Series but his position as Queensland captain, one voice remained calm and reassuring.
"'JT' (Johnathan Thurston) was blowing up and there were a few blokes going off and 'Locky' grabbed us and said, 'Boys, there's 15 minutes, we can do this. We just need to get back to doing what we've practised and it will come off,'" remembers current Maroons captain Cameron Smith of the composure Darren Lockyer displayed under immense pressure.
"And, it did. He's a magician, but it came off so I think that's the greatest asset of a leader.
"Composure was one of the great things that Locky had and the one thing that I always used to watch and think was such a rare talent to have in big games. To come up with the right play or the right thing to say to get everyone going, it's a rare talent to have and not many people have it, so I used to think, I'd love to have that.
"As captain that's one of my best traits to stay calm and be composed... You might be a little bit nervous inside but as long as you show to your team and your men around you that you're composed and you know what needs to be done then everyone just jumps on board, and that's what we did with Locky that night."
While talk leading into that game – the one that started this record-breaking eight Series wins by Queensland – was of the cloudy representative futures of the likes of Lockyer, Steve Price and Petero Civoncieva, Smith admits that he didn't feel immune from the selectors' axe.
Having made his debut in a dead rubber in 2003, Smith had been in winning Queensland teams in just four of his first nine games and if Hodgson hadn't thrown that awful pass from dummy-half with six minutes to play, if Lockyer hadn't been pushing up a metre ahead of anyone else, if Clinton Schifcoske doesn't kick the conversion from virtually in front, Cameron Smith may have never captained his state, a feat he has now achieved on nine occasions.
"It's not only been the pivotal moment for Queensland rugby league but it was a pivotal moment for a lot of guys' careers," Smith recalls. "Coming into that match and there was a lot of pressure on guys like 'Locky' and Petero and 'Pricey', they were the senior players and been there for a long time and we were staring down the barrel of four consecutive Series losses.
"That was my third Series plus my first match in 2003, JT was there for a few, Billy [Slater] had been in and out so there was probably pressure on us as well if we hadn't won that one; they were probably looking for a couple of new blokes to take over from our role.
"Ever since that try it's only got bigger and better for us and not just because of that match but because we've had to work hard to continue that success."
Smith's Origin memories stretch back to watching his beloved Maroons in the lounge room of the family home in Logan and taking each loss as hard as if he was playing in them himself.
In backyard games of footy he would switch between playing as Steve Walters, Martin Bella or Kevin Walters but it was a high-powered winger who most captured his imagination.
"One of my favourite players was Michael Hancock, for some reason," says Smith, who will draw level with 'The King', Wally Lewis, when he runs out for his 31st Origin match on Wednesday night.
"I used to just love watching him play. He was quick – and all kids want to be fast – so you wanted to be fast like Michael Hancock and he'd play with plenty of aggression.
"When they lost I took it pretty tough, pretty hard, because I had a couple of mates who used to go for New South Wales for some strange reason. They were Queenslanders but maybe their parents went for the Blues, I don't know, but it was pretty tough. I'd sit there as a kid and get quite upset if Queensland didn't have a victory and when I was a kid we didn't have a whole heap of success, Series wise."
Following dominant Blues victories in the opening two games, Game Three of the 2003 Series meant little to historians but for Wayne Smith – a proud father among a crowd of 52,130 – watching his son make his debut for Queensland and score a try in a 36-6 romp, it was the most memorable game of all.
"That first jersey probably meant the most to my parents and obviously my dad because he played footy as a young bloke and played first grade in Brisbane for Easts Tigers," says Smith, now a proud father of three himself.
"I'm sure he would have loved the opportunity back then to play for Queensland. He played in the mid to late '70s so they were interstate matches but I think he would have loved the opportunity to play an interstate game.
"He didn't get the opportunity and I'm sure it would have been a really proud moment. Your mum and dad always tell you that they're proud of you but I think they were extremely proud the night I had the opportunity to represent Queensland in the State of Origin arena."