NSW skipper Paul Gallen has lauded Queensland counterpart Cameron Smith as rugby league’s best player.
In a rare departure from his tough talk towards Queensland in the lead up to Wednesday’s MCG showpiece, Gallen took time in his match eve media conference to lavish praise on the Maroons leader, rating him ahead of the likes of Greg Inglis, Jonathan Thurston and Billy Slater.
Smith was one of Queensland’s best in their 11-10 game one win in Sydney last month and Gallen said the Blues must negate his influence if they are to force the series to a decider in Brisbane next month.
“Cameron Smith is always the biggest danger,” said Gallen.
“He is the best player in the game at the moment. He probably has been for a long time.
“He controls the game in more ways than one. We just have to watch him.
“I respect him, he knows that, I respect all of them, but I don’t like them when the jerseys get thrown on tomorrow night.”
The respect is mutual, with Smith praising Gallen’s influence.
“He’s their leader, he has got a lot of experience, but the biggest thing about Gal is his work rate,” Smith said.
“He takes a lot of pressure away from the other forwards in his team, comes up with 25-30 tackles every game coupled with close to 30 hit ups, and gets through a lot of work which takes a lot of heat off his teammates.”
NSW need to win to keep their defence of the State of Origin shield alive and Gallen said the match shaped as the biggest of his career.
“I say this every year ahead of Origin, it gets bigger and better every year so yeah this is the biggest game of my career,” Gallen said.
“It is going to be at a venue that is an iconic sporting ground of Australia, there are going to be 90,000 people there, hopefully the biggest audience on television, so it is going to be an amazing environment to play in.”