Smith hope referees play small role

You can still get away with more in state of origin than in NRL games, according to Melbourne Storm and Queensland captain Cameron Smith.

But the hooker admitted on the eve of Wednesday night’s opening origin game at ANZ Stadium that he was unsure of exactly how much more.

”I think to some degree it’s still the case,” said Smith, when asked about the perception that the interstate series is played under an unofficial second set of rules.

”But there’s a fairly strict rule on the shoulder charge … now and it’s going to be interesting on the ruck interpretation as well. We’ve seen it’s been a lot faster at club level this year. We’re just going to have to figure out the referees in the first 10 minutes or so, to see what they’re allowing in the ruck.

”State of origin, traditionally, is a bit slower. They allow a bit more work on the ground.”

Smith indicated he wanted match officials to be less pedantic than they are at club level. ”I think state of origin’s a better game when there’s a bit more flowing footy,” he said. ”As long as there’s nothing illegal [where they say] ‘let’s sweep that under the carpet’.

”I think the fans would like to see a free-flowing game, rather than the ref pulling his whistle out every two minutes.”

Speaking about Queensland’s likely approach, Smith said: ”We just want to be careful with the width that we play and the style of footy we play. We don’t want to be too expansive in game one and turn the ball over and get put into touch.”

He said playmaker Johnathan Thurston was still not feeling 100 per cent, having been hampered by a virus since Sunday, and was unsure what effect an assault investigation would have on Ben Te’o.

”There’s no way any of us are going to know how he’s going to go out and play,” Smith said. ”But from as far as I’ve seen this week, he’s [in] a really good place.”

NSW skipper Paul Gallen says he’ll go in feeling fresher than ever.

Gallen has missed Cronulla’s last three games after injuring his knee in the third minute of the win against Newcastle four weeks ago, but said his body was in better shape than before game one last year. The 31-year-old admitted he almost pulled out of last year’s opener in Melbourne after damaging knee ligaments, but still made 35 tackles and close to 160 metres.

”I remember going into game one with a posterior cruciate ligament injury and I was icing my knee all day and tossing up whether to pull out or not,” Gallen said on Tuesday. ”I feel a lot more comfortable this year and certainly a lot more fresh.”

The skipper produced one of the all-time great origin displays in game two in 2011 when he played for 80 minutes in the front-row.

He became only the second man to do so in series history, emulating former NSW prop Glenn Lazarus’ achievement 15 years earlier.

But he said he was unlikely to do that again this year.

”If I need to, I need to, and I am confident I can do it,” he said. ”But, to be honest, I think I’ll be the first player to be replaced.”

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