Smith’s shock retirement exposes Maroons leadership vacuum

Dr Chop Roar Guru

By Dr Chop, Dr Chop is a Roar Guru

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    Many New South Welshmen, Kiwis and Poms are rejoicing at the thought of never having to watch their teams play against Cameron Smith again.

    No more will he be manipulating officials with something as simple (and frustrating if you’re not on his side) as cool, calm and collected dialogue.

    No more will he be ripping elite defences to shreds by getting his forwards over the advantage line with inch-perfect passes.

    No more will he pull a 40-20 out of his backside just when his team needs it most.

    Finally, his days of dominating the rep scene by coming up with the right play at the right time, every time, have come to an end.

    For those who live north of the Tweed however, a sense of angst will be setting in as the first State of Origin match rapidly approaches.

    On the one hand, one of their all-time greats has decided to hang up the boots. The Queensland faithful will celebrate his career and wish him all the best.

    On the other hand, who the hell is going to lead the Banana-Benders around the park this year and into the future?

    With no obvious answer to the above question, I – a New South Welshman motivated by nothing other than a desire to assist my brothers from north of the border – have assembled a list of leading Queensland captaincy candidates. No need to thank me Kevvie!

    Cameron Smith Queensland Maroons State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

    Cameron Smith has retired from rep footy. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    Greg Inglis
    As a club captain, β€˜GI’ is probably the first name that comes to mind.

    His credentials speak for themselves: 30 Origins for 18 tries – the most of anyone ever. Not bad for a skinny kid from Bowraville (which is in Queensland).

    But at the age of 31 and with troublesome knees, by picking Inglis as their skipper, the Maroons will probably find themselves in this same situation again within the next two years. With Inglis missing last year’s series through injury, it’s also not ideal to thrust him straight back into the side as captain.

    Given his greatness, Inglis will no doubt rise to the challenge as he always does. But it’s still not an ideal situation.

    Billy Slater
    ‘The Kid’ must be feeling more like β€˜Old Man’ Billy at the age of 34. As unbelievable as it sounds now, he actually played against a NSW team that used to win more than its fair share of games.

    Slater has never been a club captain, but he has always been a leader. Throughout his career he has been the defensive organiser at the back for Melbourne, Queensland and Australia. He’s also been part of the Queensland brainstrust for years, which means ascension to the role of captain would be a logical step.

    What counts against Slater is his age. Like with Inglis, Slater could retire from representative football any time – many thought he would at the end of last year’s World Cup.

    On pure ability and standing in the team, Slater is probably the best choice. But it’s not smart to use such a stopgap solution – unless the Queensland selectors and coach are banking on a new leader emerging from the younger crop of players. If that is the case, they could pick Slater as a temporary captain while they groom a younger player to take over.

    Billy Slater runs the ball for the Maroons in State of Origin

    Billy Slater (AAP Image/Julian Smith)

    Matt Scott
    Matt Scott is the most senior forward in the team and has single-handedly turned several games on their head – particularly when coming back into the game for his second stint. He is also a premiership-winning club captain – the only one in the Queensland team.

    However, like Inglis and Slater before him, age is not on Scott’s side. At 32 years old, who knows how much longer he’ll be in the team for.

    Also, like Inglis, Scott is coming back into Origin after missing last year’s series due to a serious injury.

    Finally, as a front-rower, Scott will not be on the field for the entire game. While front-rowers have captained at Origin level before (most recently Paul Gallen for NSW), it’s obviously preferred that a captain play 80 minutes.

    Darius Boyd
    As the current Broncos skipper, Boyd is in a prime position to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Darren Lockyer, Gorden Tallis and Alfie Langer, who also captained Queensland.

    Boyd is no spring chicken, however. He’ll be 31 in July, and while his injury troubles haven’t been quite as serious as that of Inglis, his hamstrings could flare up again at any time. The older one gets, the more likely it is.

    Being captain from the wing is also difficult. He could take over as fullback next year when Slater (likely) retires – although Kalyn Ponga may have something to say about that.

    But that’s next year. I don’t think Kevvie Walters will want a winger as captain – even one who has played 28 games and scored 17 tries!

    Michael Morgan
    If Origin was played after last year’s finals series and the Queensland selectors were faced with Cameron Smith’s sudden retirement just two weeks out from the naming of the team, Michael Morgan would be a lock for the captaincy.

    He’s 26, he plays in key positions, he’s played Origin and Test football before and he’s won a premiership. His off-field record is also squeaky-clean (hence Cameron Munster’s absence from this list). That’s your perfect captaincy candidate right there.

    Unfortunately, Ben Hunt’s stellar start to the season, combined with Morgan’s relatively poor start, means he may not even be in the starting side for Origin 1 on June 6 at the MCG. And if Ponga keeps his form up, Morgan may not even make the 17.

    I like Morgan’s long-term captaincy prospects. If the Queensland selectors were to privately back him and groom him for the role, they could pick someone like Slater or Inglis in the interim.

    But it’s hard to decide to groom someone for captaincy when you can’t even guarantee him a spot in the team.

    With the likes of Ben Hunt, Cameron Munster, Kalyn Ponga, Anthony Milford and Ash Taylor to be around for many years to come, this is very much the situation that Michael Morgan finds himself in.

    Jake Friend
    This is definitely one out of left field, but I wouldn’t put it past those wily Queenslanders.

    He might not even make the Origin side – Andrew McCullough is probably the front-runner to replace Smith as hooker at this stage – but if Friend is there, he firms as an ideal captaincy candidate.

    His leadership credentials are proven – Trent Robinson is convinced that he is the best leader at the Roosters, despite having NSW captain Boyd Cordner on their roster.

    Having a debutant as captain is unprecedented, but Friend has been an elite, representative-class hooker for many years. It’s his poor timing that has cost him a representative career so far – he’s the Stuart MacGill to Cameron Smith’s Shane Warne. So while he is a debutant, it’s not as if he’s inexperienced.

    And at 28, he is a medium-to-long-term option if he can hold his spot in the side.

    I’m not saying it’s likely, but it’s certainly an option worth considering.

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    The Crowd Says (21)

    • May 16th 2018 @ 6:57am
      craigo said | May 16th 2018 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      Inglis , Slater Boyd are the obvious contenders but you could select any one of the mob who will be in the training squad and they will step up and show true courage and leadership.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 7:32am
      Duncan Smith said | May 16th 2018 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      Inglis or Slater I’d say.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:24am
      peeko said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:24am | ! Report

      plenty of good leaders on your list

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:39am
      Dave Jacobs said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:39am | ! Report

      Anyone thats gone through the Melbourne storm system are Leaders! Take your Pick β›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆβ›ˆ

    • Roar Guru

      May 16th 2018 @ 8:49am
      Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:49am | ! Report

      I still do not get the premise that a bloke is over 30yo he’s too old. Every Qld Captain has been over 30 for the last 11yrs. How many series has Qld won in that time?

      • May 16th 2018 @ 10:49am
        Dr Chop said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

        You’ve misunderstood my premise perhaps. I did not say that 30 is too old to captain. Obviously with age comes experience and greater leadership. What I did say is that 30 is perhaps too old to become captain because when you pick such an old captain, one will inevitably have to pick a new captain again very soon. At no point did I entirely blame age either. It’s also injuries. In the case of GI, he’s 31 and has dodgy knees. He’s not a long-term solution. Slater is 34 with a dodgy shoulder – not a long-term solution. Paul Gallen became NSW captain at age 30, but at the time had no history of serious injuries and we wound up getting 6 seasons out of him as captain. Now it’s Cordner, who is 25 and will be skipper for many years.

        “Every Qld Captain has been over 30 for the last 11yrs”

        Incorrect. Cameron Smith first captained in 2008 at age 25. He ascended to the role permanently in 2012 at age 29. Darren Lockyer was captain of QLD in 2004 at age 27.

        • Roar Guru

          May 16th 2018 @ 12:13pm
          Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

          Do you think Cordner was a good choice in hindsight and performance? Based on 6 games over 4 yrs previous did he show enough to warrant selection or was it a lack of options? If his selection was a view to the future, would you select him this year based on form alone? Can you honestly say Woods, Klemmer (who has also played 9 games) Hayne, Dugan, Fergo or Maloney respected Cordner as Captain?

          My point is age shouldn’t be a consideration when selecting the Captain. The captain is the leader, not necessarily the best player either. They command respect, been there and done that while leading by example on and off the field. I’m fine with a 25yo being State Captain but they must command the respect same way any of the Qld players look up to Inglis or Scott.

          • May 16th 2018 @ 12:45pm
            Dr Chop said | May 16th 2018 @ 12:45pm | ! Report

            Whether Cordner is a good choice for captain or not is not really relevant. We’re talking about QLD. As it happens I do think Cordner was the right choice for the captaincy. I have seen nothing from Woods, Klemmer, Hayne or Maloney to suggest that they didn’t respect Cordner’s captaincy. Obviously Fergo and Dugan’s behaviour illustrates that they didn’t, but I’d say that the issue has more to do with them than with Cordner as both have a history of off-field issues. They had issues under Gallen too in 2013 (I think it was that year).

            I think age has to be a consideration when selecting a captain. If Slater is made captain, then QLD will be looking for a new captain again in 12 months time. If one of Scott or Inglis are made captain, then QLD will be looking for a new captain again in 12-24 months time. If any of those three are the best options for captain this year then I guess they will be made captain. I’m just saying that most sport teams around the world pick long-term leaders. QLD would be setting themselves up for a tough situation in my opinion of they choose a player over 30 with well documented injury problems (which all three of those players are). Notice again how it’s not just age that’s the consideration – it’s injury problems too. As I said above, Gallen becoming captain at 30 wasn’t a problem because he had no history of serious injuries.

            • Roar Guru

              May 16th 2018 @ 1:25pm
              Nat said | May 16th 2018 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

              I understand your point and we are not far apart. My point is they are selecting the best team and captain for the 2018 series, irrespective of age and/or previous injuries. All that matters is are they fit, are they playing enough, are they leaders? It’s like Qld picking Michael Morgan this year purely because he’s young, been (significant) injury free and may be there in the next few years.

    • May 16th 2018 @ 8:57am
      BrainsTrust said | May 16th 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

      Its a shock when someone in their mid 30’s retires from representative rugby league.
      I will give it to Cameron Smith compared to a lot of other players who were over the hill even before 30 he did managed to keep going in his early 30’s.
      Why would New Zealanders be celebrating, the more Queenslanders in the Kangaroos team the more chance they had of winning over the years. NZ went 12 years without beating Australia prior to State of Oriigin and then started beating Australia every couple of years with reserve graders in their team. At least these days they are first graders.
      New Zealand have had plenty of success but now the rug has been pulled from underneath them with the rise of Pacific Island teams.Not only are they second choice to Queensland , now the Pacific islanders are pulling away their players they will now struggle to be second fiddle.

      • May 16th 2018 @ 10:51am
        Dr Chop said | May 16th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

        New Zealanders will be celebrating for the same reason as the English and the Blues. Greater chance of winning now without Smith in the team.

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