Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston join Billy Slater on Maroons coaching staff
Just when New South Wales thought the nightmare was over, Cameron Smith has returned to the Queensland Maroons to terrorise the Blues once more.
Smith was part of a Queensland juggernaut that dominated the Origin arena for over a decade and he was confirmed as an assistant coach to fellow Maroons legend Billy Slater on Tuesday.
He joins a formidable coaching lineup that also includes Maroons legends Johnathan Thurston and Josh Hannay.
During his time on the field with Queensland, Slater played 31 Origins and contributed to that state’s dominance of interstate series for eight consecutive years, winning the Dally M Award for Best Representative Player in 2010.
Smith and Thurston both played for Queensland’s dynasty between 2006 and 2013 and are two of the most experienced players in Origin history, with 42 and 37 games respectively.
Thurston, Smith and Slater were key figures in a decade of dominance for the Queensland Maroons. Now they’ve been reunited on the Maroons coaching team
Slater said that Smith had an ‘aura’ that was certain to strike fear into the New South Wales side once more.
‘If you look at what he brought as a player and a leader, I think that’s also what he can bring as a member of the coaching staff,’ he said.
‘Some people have this aura about them, and Cameron Smith is one of those people.
‘He didn’t have to say a lot as captain of the Queensland State of Origin team, you felt it more than anything … you felt his presence.’
Slater praised Thurston as the ‘ultimate Origin competitor and was looking forward to seeing the impact he could bring to the team.
‘We saw all the brilliant stuff that Johnathan brought to the game, but for me it was the work ethic that he demanded from himself, which in turn he demanded from his teammates,’ Slater said.
‘I think he can have that sort of impact as a coach also.
‘Obviously, his skills and vision of the game, understanding the balance of when to pull the trigger and when to play the percentage play, that was where he excelled in the big games.
‘His last moment in Origin was kicking that pressure goal. I just think he’s a valuable asset, not just with the coaching staff, but the players in particular.’
Smith and Cooper Cronk celebrate winning game three of the State Of Origin series at Suncorp Stadium in 2017
Smith said he was proud to be part of the Queensland setup once more.
‘It’s a jersey and a team that I’m extremely proud of and passionate about,’ he said.
‘But I’m also passionate about Queensland people and our state and making sure that they feel success, and that they can be proud of their football side when we represent them.
‘If I can help in some way and give the current players the opportunity to be at their best on game night, and to help or assist Billy to be the best coach he can be, then that’s my role.
‘It’s not about anything else, other than trying to help people be better through my knowledge, through my experiences, and if I can make a small difference, I’ll be happy.’
Former Queensland Maroons captain Cameron Smith (right) stands with his family ahead of Game 3 of the 2018 State of Origin series
In his new role, Thurston will serve as the team’s attacking coach and will focus on the team’s halves and how they link with outside players.
In the years since he retired in 2017, the North Queensland legend has been in Maroons camps at times, but this is the first occasion he has had an official coaching role after also taking up an assistant coaching position at the Cowboys.
‘It was very humbling when Bill asked me to stay on board,’
‘He was in camp a couple of times when I was doing some video sessions with the team and he was saying he was quite impressed with what I had to say.
‘He’s given me some roles he wants me to concentrate on for this year’s series. Bill’s attention to detail is second to none, and that’s been the way he has played the game and that’s the way he’ll coach the side.
‘It’s very humbling to be a part of the coaching staff but I’m also there to do a job and that is to make sure the team performs at the highest level.’
New South Wales has won three out of the last four State of Origin series, including thumping wins to secure the shield in the opening two games in 2022
Following ten years of dominance, the Maroons were humiliated last season, losing both of the opening games 50-6 and 26-0 which saw the exit of coach Paul Green and assistant Neil Henry.
After preventing a clean sweep with a gritty 20-18 victory in game three, Slater is optimistic about Queensland’s chances of regaining the title.
Allan Langer and Nate Myles, former Queensland representatives, will also be part of the Maroons’ support team.
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