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Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has marvelled at the courage shown by captain Cameron Smith to back up from Wednesday’s Origin Game One.

Smith was originally meant to miss up to two weeks with a right ankle sprain but powered through Saturday’s clash with the Cowboys in Townsville, putting forward a near man of the match performance that featured a gut-busting 54 tackles and over 350 kick metres.

That inspiration wasn’t lost on Bellamy, who admitted that he didn’t even want Smith taking the field.

“The bloke next to me (points at Smith) comes out and plays Origin injured and basically I wasn’t going to play him and he insisted and he’s come out and made over 50 tackles, played 80 minutes and played really strong,” Bellamy said.

Smith himself said that taking the field was just as much about being a leader and setting an example for young players as the better-than-expected recovery.

“(The ankle) is sore now but it was (hurting) a bit before the game. (I have pulled up) not too bad. I was actually quite surprised about how it pulled up after Origin. Our physio Tony has been working on the ankle around the clock ever since we arrived in Townsville and it responded really well to the treatment and it felt really good,” Smith said.

“I had a bit of a run yesterday with the boys and tonight it felt really good, obviously it’s a bit sore now after running on it all night but it’s okay, it’s getting better.

Post-game, Smith was handing out plaudits of his own toward the Origin stars on both teams who backed up just three days after one of the more gruelling Origin encounters in memory.

“I think most of the boys who played Origin were pretty tired towards the end there. I saw Hoffy (Hoffman) as out on his feet and even Scotty (Matt Scott) and JT got an early rest and Jimmy Tamou was pretty buggered and Tatey (Brent Tate).

“It wasn’t hard to put the hand up tonight and play, we always want to represent our club and it means a lot to us to do that and the team needed us tonight so we had to do it.”

“Hoffy (Ryan Hoffman) was the same, he come back and he was buggered after Wednesday night, he put in a massive effort in that State of Origin match and he comes out tonight and puts up 20 odd hit-ups, so that’s a special thing to do. Anyone (in the team) in our position would have done the same thing.”

Despite the shutout loss Bellamy also lauded the effort shown by his troops, citing a lack of experience in combinations as the main reasons for the 22-0 defeat.

“Throughout the team there was a lot of effort for a lot of the game but it was a little bit of a lack of experience and I suppose a lack of practice with our halves getting our attack right was probably the thing that really hurt us tonight.”

“The other thing a lot of people don’t realise with Billy (Slater) is that no-one organises a defence like Billy Slater, and I mean no-one. As far as I’m concerned, and I’ve heard other people say it when he’s in the Queensland side and with the Australian side, no-one organises a defence like Billy Slater so not only are you missing him and that combination with Cooper (Cronk), you’re missing organisation which is hard for a young bloke like Cameron Munster (to make up for) tonight.

“They’re the cards you’re dealt and you just have to deal with it, so we’ll do our best. There was plenty of effort out there tonight… there are a few things we need to work on and it doesn’t get any easier next week – we’re playing the premiers so we will need to get on with it. We’re not going to find another Cooper Cronk or Billy Slater but we just need guys to step up and play to their roles and play to their strengths and we’ll mould that into a team.”
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