Claims by NSW captain Paul Gallen that Billy Slater won’t be targeted in State of Origin II appear to have been taken with a grain of salt by Queensland skipper Cameron Smith.
Maroons leader Smith could not rule out the possibility of the Blues seeking some serious payback for Slater at the MCG on Wednesday night.
And he admitted there was nothing they could do to protect the veteran fullback.
Slater is expected to wear a target on his recovering shoulder that may undergo season-ending surgery as early as Thursday after coming under fire for perceived niggling tactics in Origin I.
Gallen reckoned injuring Slater was the last thing on their minds as they looked to square the series on Wednesday night.
But it seems Smith needed a bit more convincing.
Asked if Queensland could do anything to stop NSW retribution on Slater, Smith said: “No, it’s not the NFL so we can’t block anyone.
“They can do whatever they want to try and upset our players but Billy has been there and done that for a long time.”
Slater has come under fire from the Blues camp in the lead-up to Origin II for what they claimed was an attack on NSW flyer Josh Morris.
NSW have highlighted an incident in which Slater appeared to drop his elbow into the back of a prone Morris during Queensland’s 11-10 Origin I victory in Sydney last month.
And speculation that Slater had booked season-ending shoulder surgery on Thursday only further riled the Blues camp.
“If he is planning on having surgery on Thursday, I think that is a sign of where their team is at the moment,” Gallen said.
“They think they are that much better than us.
“They think they are going to get this win and it is going to be the end of the series and Billy is going to get surgery and have the rest of the year off.
“It is a little bit disrespectful to us.”
But asked if NSW would seek payback on Slater in Origin II, Gallen said: “We have nothing special in store for him.
“But it is easy to be talking about it and having a go at him.
“We have to go out there and get the win tomorrow night and prove that we are the better side.”
Origin II kicks off at the MCG at about 2000.