The torment on his face was obvious, but Queensland captain Cameron Smith still resisted the urge to break his silence on Alex McKinnon’s criticism after Queensland’s record State of Origin triumph in Brisbane.
However, the wait may soon be over with Smith set to meet with his NRL club Melbourne on Thursday to finalise a strategy.
Smith maintained his vow not to speak to Nine Network in Wednesday night’s 52-6 series clinching romp following the explosive 60 Minutes program dedicated to McKinnon.
He had plenty to talk about with Darren Lockyer after equalling the ex-skipper’s Origin record of 36 games in the series decider at Suncorp Stadium.
But even Lockyer was brushed when he attempted a halftime interview with Smith as part of Nine’s match coverage.
Anxious TV broadcasters did breathe a little easier when Smith got onto the podium to accept the trophy for the ninth time in 10 years and the skipper also attended the post-match press conference.
However, Smith would not budge when prodded on the obviously still burning McKinnon issue.
“I don’t think tonight is the right forum, out of respect for the game just played and a guy like Justin Hodges who just finished his career,” Smith said of 24-game retiring centre Hodges.
Nine Network did not give Smith a right of reply in the 60 Minutes program that highlighted McKinnon’s criticism of his on-field behaviour following the tackle last year that left the ex-Knights forward in a wheelchair.
But Smith did provide a brief insight into the tough week he had endured.
“You go through ups and downs but my focus has been the team all week,” Smith said.
“I haven’t wavered away from what (coach) Mal (Meninga) asked me to do in preparation this week.
“This was a big game and any sort of distraction wouldn’t have helped our cause.
“All I did all week was focus on what the boys needed from me.”
Smith may still not have decided when to launch his defence but Meninga didn’t waste time after the record victory.
“He is one of the best to have played the game, simple as that,” Meninga said of Smith.
“When you can put something aside what he has to endure in recent times and do what he has done, it was extraordinary.
“Let’s hope we keep talking about Cam Smith’s ability on the footy field, and what a decent bloke he is – we love him.”
Queensland teammate Michael Morgan revealed Smith made it clear that he did not want the 60 Minutes issue to consume the camp.
“Cam spoke to us and said that he was doing alright and he wanted us to focus on the game and that’s exactly what he did as well,” he said.
“He’s the ultimate professional and he showed that.”
The signs were ominous for an awkward night for broadcasters when Nine Network did not attend the captains’ pre-game coin toss, instead letting the Suncorp Stadium venue MC host the usually televised ceremony.