Origin comeback could be Smith’s legacy
FORMER Maroons skipper Gorden Tallis has ramped up calls for Cameron Smith to return to save Queensland, saying the Storm champion could leave an Arthur Beetson-style legacy.
While Smith insists he is retired from the Maroons "at this stage", he was cryptic about his Queensland future, saying on Sunday he would "never say never" to the prospect of a State of Origin comeback.
Smith is the most-capped player in Origin's 39-year history with 42 games and the calls for his return only intensified after incumbent Maroons hooker Andrew McCullough suffered a knee injury at Broncos training on Monday.
McCullough faces six to eight weeks on the sidelines in a scenario that could wipe him out of the Origin series, potentially opening the door for Smith to reprise his status as Queensland's skipper and inspirational No.9.
Queensland has a history of turning to legends in a time of need. Arthur Beetson famously skippered Queensland in Origin's inaugural match in 1980 and Allan Langer famously returned from England to lead the Maroons to an epic 40-14 victory in Game Three of 2001.
Now Tallis, a veteran of 17 Origin matches, urged Smith to launch an Origin renaissance to help mentor the next wave of Queensland players.
"Cameron might not want that, but if he wants it (an Origin comeback), the challenge is there for him to take," Tallis said.
"Cameron has ticked every box and ticked them a few times.
"I still love Wally Lewis, but other judges will say Cameron Smith will go down as the greatest player ever and certainly the greatest hooker there has been.
"This (a return to Origin) might be the challenge Cameron needs … a young mob of kids and it's a legacy he can leave.
"The legacy at the moment is what he created with the great other players (such as Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater), but this would be a legacy like Allan Langer coming back, or Wally Lewis or Arthur Beetson.
"Arthur and Wally took the challenges and I would love to see Cameron do it. There wouldn't be enough bronze for his statues if he came back."
Meanwhile, Tallis, who visited Brisbane's CBD on Tuesday to promote the NRL's Magic Round, believes Dragons $6 million man Ben Hunt could fill the No. 9 void if Smith officially rules out a comeback.
"Ben Hunt is the obvious choice," he said.
"When McCullough got injured a few years ago, Hunt played hooker and he was absolutely outstanding.
"He is playing well for the Dragons and his combination with Corey Norman was unbelievable a few weeks ago.
"He can work with his teammates and his halves. I watched him the other week defending in the middle and he was racing off the line and putting his body in front … he is a standout for me."