Victorious Queensland coach Kevin Walters has hailed skipper Cameron Smith as the best leader he’s seen in rugby league after helping steer the Maroons to yet another State of Origin triumph.
Queensland won 26-16 in Wednesday night’s game two at Suncorp Stadium to secure their 10th series win in 11 years and the first under the reign of Walters.
Smith led the way in his record-breaking 38th Origin appearance, inspiring his players with a 35-tackle performance that Walters said proved he was at very least the equal of any of the state’s great players from the past.
“If there’s a better person or captain than this country’s seen than the bloke sitting beside me, someone better identify them,” Walters said in the post-match press conference.
“I’ve worked with some great people and some great captains, and played with some great captains. But this bloke here is really something else.
“Queensland has had some great leaders but none better than Cameron Smith.”
Smith promptly returned the compliment, saying he was never in any doubt that Walters would be able to carry on Mal Meninga’s winning legacy.
Walters wasn’t the Queensland Rugby League’s first choice as Meninga’s successor – that was Paul Green, who turned down the opportunity to concentrate on North Queensland’s NRL title defence – but Smith said he has proved to be the right choice.
“A lot of people were talking about the shoes he was stepping into with Mal, but none of the players ever thought he had to live up to what Mal was about as a coach,” Smith said.
“He’s his own coach and he’s got his own style, and he’s quite smart with his footy too.
“The one thing we all enjoy about Kevvie is his passion for our state and for this team, and the emotion that he shows around that.
“In both camps he’s given us quite moving speeches, and you can see that it means a lot to him to be the coach of this side.
“Anytime a coach does that, the guys that run out onto the field have no second thoughts about who they’re playing for.”