If it was any other week, Queensland captain Cameron Smith says he would be fronting the NRL judiciary to clear his name and overturn his dangerous contact charge.
Smith has avoided suspension after making an early guilty plea, which clears the way for him to lead the Maroons into next week’s State of Origin opener in Sydney.
The 31-year-old said he was “surprised” to have been slapped with the grade one dangerous contact charge for accidentally kicking South Sydney’s Isaac Luke in the head in an attempt to escape a tackle during Melbourne’s 16-12 NRL win on Saturday night.
“If this was a club game I’d be in Sydney tomorrow night,” Smith said on Tuesday at Queensland’s team announcement for game one.
“Obviously the club and I sought out some legal advice on the incident.
“We were told we had a fairly strong case if we were to fight the charge but at the end of the day, the risk of missing a State of Origin match was too great and decided to take an early plea so now I’m free to play.
“I’m obviously very happy I’m available to play for Queensland and we can just get on with our preparation for game one.”
Smith has only ever missed one Origin game since his debut for Queensland back in 2003, but he is no stranger to missing big games through suspension.
Smith missed the 2008 grand final for the Storm after being found guilty of a chicken wing tackle in the preliminary final the week before, and could only watch as his side was flogged 40-0 by Manly.
Coach Mal Meninga said he thought the charge from the Luke incident was “a bit harsh” on Smith.
“You’ve seen he’s held down, you can see he didn’t have any view – he was just trying to get out of the tackle,” he said.
“But he’s been charged, accepted the early plea and he’s playing.
“From a team perspective and my perspective, we’re glad he’s there.”