Smith rubbishes 'mind games' theory
If only the Maroons were as confident as Blues coach Laurie Daley that their star halfback Cooper Cronk will be fit to take the field in Game One of the 2016 Holden State of Origin Series on Wednesday night.
As Daley was in Sydney telling reporters that he was confident that Cronk will be wearing the No.7 jersey for Queensland come Wednesday night, Maroons skipper Cameron Smith revealed that Cronk had emerged from his rigorous rehabilitation schedule to see his teammates for the first time in three days on Monday morning.
Ever since Cronk rolled his ankle during the warm-up of Friday afternoon's training session on the Gold Coast there has been little other focus than whether the field goal hero from Game One last year would win his race against the medical clock.
It is customary in a Queensland Origin camp for a fitness scare to dominate discussion in the lead-up and while Daley may have labelled the concern for Cronk as mere "mind games" Smith remained cautious as to whether his Melbourne Storm teammate would recover in time.
"There's been a little bit said down south that we're playing mind games; there's absolutely no mind games at all," said Smith who will play a record-breaking 37th Origin match on Wednesday night at ANZ Stadium.
"He hurt himself three days ago, hasn't trained at all and we're hopeful that he'll play Wednesday.
"I haven't seen him for three days so that's probably a sign of how particular he has been with the rehabilitation of his ankle.
"He's spent the majority of his time here in the physio's room and icing and doing all of his compression to try and get that swelling out. We're fairly optimistic that he'll be there.
"We were just at the team room this morning and he actually came walking over from his accommodation so that's a good sign. He's walking unassisted by any crutches and out of a boot so that's a good sign.
"I reckon he's a chance of playing although there's no guarantee at the moment. He's still got a fair bit of swelling there but I think the medical staff are fairly confident that he's a good chance of playing in the match on Wednesday."
Warriors prop Jacob Lillyman will travel with the team to Sydney on Monday afternoon but Smith hinted that Sydney-based Queenslanders could also come into the mix for a spot on the bench if Cronk is ruled out.
The final chance for Cronk to have a run with the team prior to kick-off will come at the captain's run at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday afternoon and Smith said that while his participation would be ideal would not necessarily rule him out if his ankle wasn't up to it.
"Kevvie is going to give him every chance to play, there's no doubt about that, we're just unsure whether tomorrow will be the best time to run him or not," said Smith.
"At this stage Kevvie is thinking that he'll try and give him a run tomorrow if he's able to get out and have a run – I know Cooper would be pretty keen to do that also. But given his experience at this level in particular and his understanding of the way we want to play and our game-plan if he's not quite right for that then I don't think we'll risk him [at the captain's run].
"He's been an integral part of this group for a long time now and he understands his role in the team firstly but he also orchestrates a fair bit of our game-plan as well so there's no issue with him not training for the most part of the week and then slotting back in for the game.
"We've still got a fair bit of time up our sleeve which is great for us but our preparation without Cooper has been spot on.
"All the guys and the coaching staff, we're not too worried at this stage."