Smith reflects on record-breaking night
Cameron Smith has achieved just about everything rugby league has to offer, but even he will admit breaking former teammate and Maroons legend Darren Lockyer's record of 36 State of Origin appearances is something special.
On the surface, Wednesday night's 6-4 win for the Maroons at ANZ Stadium in the series opener was just your typical Queensland victory, but it meant much more than that to their skipper.
Smith started his representative career back in Game Three, 2003, and has only missed one game for the Maroons since on his way to breaking the record.
Since then, the world's premier No.9 has skippered the Melbourne Storm to premierships, the Maroons to Origin victory and the Kangaroos to World Cup glory.
Smith is regarded as one of the finest players in the competition; his ability to get his forwards on the front foot second to none. His ability to read a game seemingly unrivalled.
It's testament to the man given he has started in every single one of his 37 Origin matches and has played 80 minutes in the vast majority of them.
A reflective Smith described the honour of breaking Lockyer's record as "very special" and admitted the momentous occasion had been on his mind leading into the series opener.
"I enjoyed the entire camp as I always do, but I really just enjoyed today," Smith said after the game.
"I didn't really think too much about the game. I just wanted to enjoy the occasion. It was something quite special.
"I don't really think too much about any sort of milestones or feats that happen along the way in my career, but I thought I'd just sort of take a little bit of time today to think about it. Particularly because of the guy I was going past."
Smith paid tribute to Lockyer's influence on him both on and off the field, admitting he grew up trying to base his game around the former Bronco.
The pair shared countless memories as comrades in the Queensland camp when Lockyer was Smith's captain, and the Storm supremo said it was those moments that helped shape him to become the player he is today.
"Darren Lockyer has been a huge part of my career as a footballer and as a person," the Maroons skipper said.
"He started off as a guy that I wanted to be like as a footballer and then a person I wanted to hopefully get a chance to play alongside.
"I had that opportunity and I learnt so much from him as a player, and particularly as a leader – how to be a good leader of a football side and how to manage football games."
Smith was at his workmanlike best with a game-high 54 tackles and 93 kicking metres as he directed his troops around ANZ Stadium with military-like precision on Wednesday night.
"I enjoyed every minute of that match tonight. It was a typical State of Origin," the record-breaking Maroon said.
"As 'Kevvy' (Maroons coach Kevin Walters) mentioned, there were no flashy plays or footy that's going to get the crowd out of their seat. It was just a tough, solid win.
"It's nice to get that out of the way now and just enjoy the victory with the boys."
Ever the team player, Smith was more than happy to deflect the attention to fellow milestone men Nate Myles and Matt Scott, as well as the team's younger brigade.
"I was more pleased for the guys that were making their debut and Matty Scott playing his 20th and Nate Myles playing his 30th," he said
'I've been lucky enough to have those milestones and I've got great memories of those matches.
"I think it's important that those guys get that opportunity to have the same sort of memory that I have. They've been able to achieve that and they'll have that for the rest of their lives now."
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