Smith abstains from Slater/Boyd dilemma

Smith abstains from Slater/Boyd dilemma

Maroons coach Kevin Walters has described it as the most difficult selection decision in his short time as Queensland coach but the choice between Darius Boyd and Billy Slater for fullback in Game One won't be made with any input from captain Cameron Smith.

Once Slater made a successful return from a second straight shoulder reconstruction the choice between the incumbent Queensland and Australian fullback in career best form and one of the greatest fullbacks to ever play the position was always going to be one that tested loyalties.

With each game that Slater has played since making his NRL return in Round 3 he has looked more and more like the player who redefined a position populated by two Immortals and some of the greats the game has ever known.

But in his absence Boyd came out of a personal battle with depression to take up the mantle as rugby league's No.1 No.1 and this year taken on the added responsibility of captaining the Brisbane Broncos.   

 


In many ways it is a decision that Walters can't get wrong but having ruled out playing Slater on the wing speaking on NRL 360 on Monday night he gave the clearest indication yet of how he can get both players into the same team.

To be relegated – albeit to a position in which he has excelled throughout his Origin career – would  unquestionably be a great disappointment to Boyd and Smith was adamant that he wouldn't be offering any advice as to which way Walters should go.

"I'm out of that one," Smith said when asked which way his vote would go. "It's going to be a really, really difficult decision for Kevvie.

"Darius is obviously the incumbent there, he played a Test match the other night, the last two years he's been the best fullback in the game, both domestically and internationally. But Bill's playing great footy as well.

"Big choice there to make for Kev but he's the State of Origin coach, there's hard decisions to make there but I'm sure he'll come up with the right one.

"It's not my decision to make. He gives me the job during the week to rally the boys for the game on Wednesday but it's a really hard one. It's going to be a really difficult choice.

"It's a nice headache to have I guess for Kevvie."

Given that he had played just eight NRL games since the end of the 2014 season until his Round 3 appearance this year many questioned whether Slater would return the same player, if at all.

In his first game back against the Broncos he was probably guilty of expending too much energy when he came onto the field from the bench but with every game he has played he has begun to resemble the Slater of old.

His combinations with Smith and Cooper Cronk tore the Titans to shreds in the first half last Saturday night and after breaking an exactly two-year try-scoring drought in Round 9 backed it up with another against Gold Coast.

"Billy's been building each week that he's been back and that's the way we all thought it was going to pan out," Smith said of a man who has represented his state on 27 occasions previously.

"He's been out of the game for two years now. He's played a handful of games in two seasons and the game's changed a lot since he last played a full season.

"There are a few things that he's still adapting to both with the footy and defensively but he's looking really sharp.

"I knew that he was always going to come back strong, just from seeing him play in the pre-season.

"There were a lot of question marks around what his performances were going to be like when he returned this year but I was always confident he was going to play this way.

"He's given us a fair bit of energy with his attack, we've just got to try and utilise that a bit more."