Captain Cam made for Origin arena
Gorden Tallis tells the story of how in Cameron Smith's Origin debut in Game Three, 2003, it was the 20-year-old with the grand total of 18 NRL games to his name who calmed the 'Raging Bull' in the dressing sheds prior to kick-off.
On Wednesday night Smith will join Darren Lockyer as the most capped Origin player of all time when he makes his 36th appearance for Queensland, but no one has looked so comfortable in game No.1.
Smith's introduction to Origin was not one of immediate success. His debut was a dead rubber to everyone south of the border and in the two years that followed the Blues recorded further series victories as Queensland searched for a new winning combination.
Lockyer would lead the charge with his Game Three heroics in 2006 in a team that included future mainstays Johnathan Thurston, Sam Thaiday and Nate Myles but it was the crafty No.9 who would prove to the team's most enduring and influential player.
Michael Hagan was an assistant to Maroons coach Wayne Bennett when Smith debuted and then coached him in his first two full series in 2004-05 and said it was an obvious from the outset that this was a player built for rugby league's most pressurised environment.
"He came in and looked very comfortable from the word go. He just looked like he had that sense of belonging from that first game," Hagan recalls.
"It keeps that sense of calmness for the team and in Origin you get in front and get behind but it doesn't really change his mindset to what we have to get done.
"He knows that it's 80 minutes and we might need to be there in the 79th minute to get the job done.
"He's got that real Origin understanding and that then permeates through the rest of the team.
"He doesn't complicate the game and Origin is not about complexity, it's about keeping it simple so I think that suits his mindset and the way he plays."
Although it is his sense of calm that washes over the rest of his team, Smith is also aware there are times when strong words are needed.
Walking back after a try put Queensland further in front in Game Three year last year, Smith pulled his troops together to deliver a blunt message that he wanted this to be a victory that stung the Blues who would soon be presented with the State of Origin Shield.
The scoreline finished 32-8 to the Maroons. Try telling Smith it was a dead rubber.
"It's games where there is a lot on the line, 1-0 down in the series, everyone has written us off, they're the times when I've seen him rev up and speak with a bit of extra passion," Queensland teammate Jacob Lillyman recalls.
"Even Game Three last year, obviously to most people it was a dead rubber but to us it was a massive game and he was very vocal and very passionate there.
"Whilst it mightn't have been for everyone else we put a lot into that preparation and there was a lot on the line in that game. No one wants to lose 3-0 and there was a lot of motivation for us and he was behind a lot of that.
"When something needs to be said he'll make his voice heard but he doesn't rant or rave or anything, he's just a great leader and been a great leader for Queensland."
A five-time Origin Man of the Match, Smith has touched the ball more times than any other player in Origin games since 2004 and has made the most number of tackles (1,386) in Origin history, 505 more than the next best, fellow Queenslander Gary Larson.
But numbers will never define Cameron Smith.
His teammates respect his actions, not just his words, while his coaches treasure his capacity to oversee the execution of a game-plan and never allow the pressure of the moment to cloud his judgement.
For Smith, though, it's simply about winning a game of football – even in a game that will seem him match Lockyer's Origin record.
"To be able to equal a guy that I hold in very high regard is a nice achievement but for me it's not about running out there and making it 36," Smith said.
"It's running out and playing well and trying to help the team and the rest of my teammates play well and hopefully get a good result for Queensland."
Video courtesy of qrl.com.au