McCullough determined to create own legacy
ANDREW McCullough knows he isn't Cameron Smith, but he insists he has the game to be a long-term option in the Queensland No.9 jumper.
While NSW rival Damien Cook has stolen the headlines in this series with his tracer-bullet bursts out of dummy half, McCullough is determined to prove his Origin bona fides in Game Three on Wednesday night at Suncorp Stadium.
Succeeding Smith is akin to batting after Bradman, and while McCullough was never going to replicate his creative influence, the Broncos rake hopes he can do enough to secure his Origin future.
Accustomed to success at the Broncos, two consecutive losses to launch his Origin career have been a bitter pill for McCullough to swallow.
He hopes a victory on Wednesday night will see him trump Blues opposite Cook and stake a claim to retain the Queensland No. 9 jumper next season.
"Everything is back to square one for selections after the series," McCullough said.
"I've had a chance this year and I don't want to let the Queensland jumper slip by any means, but like other guys I have to make sure I'm performing.
"Damien has done a great job for NSW this year and good luck to him, but I'm a different style of player to him.
"It's hard to judge with hookers. Damien is very quick, but I know what I can bring and if I'm not doing that, I get a bit dirty on myself.
"I know people will compare me and Damien in this series, which is fine, but if I'm creating time and space for my forwards, then my coaches see that and that's a tactical thing rather than a stats thing."
McCullough has held Queensland's rucks tight, making a whopping 87 tackles in the opening two matches, including a game-high 45 in Origin II, but there is scope for improvement in attack.
Queensland's playmaking spine was ripped apart this year and McCullough admits he is still developing an understanding with five-eighth Cameron Munster and fullback Billy Slater.
On Wednesday night, he must service another new halfback in Daly Cherry-Evans.
"Origin tests what you are as a player," he said.
"Once you know what to expect, it's easier to deal with. I felt I improved from game one to game two and going forward I will be more confident in my game.
"I'm starting to gel a bit better with Billy and Cameron. I haven't played a lot of football with them, but now I am starting to work out their styles of play and what they like.
"I need to keep working on creating opportunities for us to score tries. We can tidy up a few things."
New skipper Slater says if anyone deserves success, it is defensive workhorse McCullough.
"Andrew has busted his ass for Queensland in the first two games," Slater said.
"He hasn't got a win to show for it, so I hope we can sing the team song this time and give the younger guys something to savour from this series."