Granville in mix to succeed Smith
Prior to the 2015 season he was a 26-year-old unable to crack a regular NRL spot but Cowboys hooker Jake Granville has joined a growing list of candidates hoping to succeed Cameron Smith as the Queensland Maroons' No.9.
Granville is one of 20 players to have been invited to attend the Queensland Rugby League's Emerging Origin camp at the Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre in Brisbane from January 29 as new Maroons coach Kevin Walters puts his fingerprints on the direction of the team for the first time.
With forwards Matt Scott, Nate Myles, Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Jacob Lillyman all on the wrong side of 30, Walters has invited Broncos props Jarrod Wallace and Joe Ofahengaue, Bulldogs youngster Lloyd Perrett along with Chris Grevsmuhl (Rabbitohs), Ethan Lowe (Cowboys) and Jayson Bukuya (Sharks) to attend their maiden camp. Roosters firebrand Dylan Napa and Storm forward Tim Glasby also return having attended the 2015 camp.
But the challenge of finding a successor to the most capped Origin player of all time shapes as Walters' most important assignment over the course of his first three years in the job.
When he steps out to captain Queensland in Game One in Sydney on June 1 for his 37th Origin match Smith will move past Darren Lockyer's mark of 36 games outright although Walters believes the Storm skipper will play more than 40 Origin matches before he retires.
"Obviously Cameron Smith is such a key player in the Queensland side, he's the captain as well and we'd expect to get a few more years out of the old tractor just yet," Walters said, with Smith due to turn 33 in the days leading up to Origin II in Brisbane on June 22.
Waiting in the wings are a handful of hookers with eyes on a coveted Origin jersey with Granville the latest name added to the list.
Jake Friend, Andrew McCullough and James Segeyaro have all proven themselves at NRL level for a number of years while some well-placed experts have told NRL.com that they see Manly recruit Matt Parcell as a genuine option to step in when Smith retires.
Granville's first year in North Queensland delivered a premiership and a starring role in the grand final and Walters said he will be welcomed into the Queensland set-up at the end of the month.
"There are a few hookers around," Walters said.
"Obviously Jake Granville has come into the picture and made some strong progress last year, Jake Friend has been at a number of camps so he's at the top of the list. Then you have got Segeyaro as well as Andrew McCullough, they're all guys that are looking to step up in the next couple of years.
"Matty [Parcell] hasn't played a lot of first grade at this stage but we've got our eye on him that's for sure. At the moment there are a couple of guys in front of him in that regard."
Josh McGuire, Dane Gagai and Michael Morgan all made their Origin debuts in 2015 after spending time in the Emerging camp earlier in the year and a host of young players could this year make the leap also.
Cameron Munster (Storm), Moses Mbye (Bulldogs), Corey Oates (Broncos) and Nene Macdonald (Titans) have all been invited to the camp for the first time and are representative of the depth of talent currently available to Queensland selectors and Walters.
"They're all good young players at their respective clubs and the idea of the Emerging camp is for them to be engaged with people involved in the Origin program as well as us getting a bit of a look at them," Walters said. "How they work away from the field, away from their club and what sort of work ethic they have.
"Obviously the 17 that finished last year, if they're all fit [they will be selected], but you need more than 17 players for the Series. It's a case of having a bit of an eye on the future as well as immediately.
"We're pretty fortunate at the moment that we've got good depth in all positions but I do have a bit of an eye on the future with regards to our forwards.
"We've got a few of those guys that in the next two or three years will be in a transition period I suppose."
Find out who is in the Queensland Emerging Squad.
Video first appeared on QRL.com.au