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Smith hooks status as greatest in Origin history

Lee Oliver Roar Rookie

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    Since Cameron Smith announced his retirement from representative rugby league, there has been much debate about where the champion hooker stands in the annals of State of Origin history.

    According to sports writer Liam Hauser, Smith is the greatest State of Origin player ever.

    As part of research for his book State of Origin: 35 Years, Hauser watched tapes of every State of Origin game since its inception in 1980. He says Smith is the best player to pull on a Maroons or Blues jersey.

    “Having watched a replay of each State of Origin match I have been set the challenge of trying to choose my list of the top ten Origin players of all time,” Hauser says.

    “It has been very difficult, largely because it is impossible to compare players who played in different positions and who played many years apart. There is no set criteria that could satisfy everyone, and there is no way that anyone’s list could be considered definitive or gospel.

    “I wasn’t born when State of Origin began in 1980, meaning that I watched replays of many of the matches much later than when they occurred. It has always been hard to objectively analyse matches when watching them in a far removed time-frame from when they took place.

    “After coming up with my top ten players for each state, I tried to work out an overall top 10. Longevity and success were the main two criteria that I used in order to work out my top 10. Each player needed to be in at least two series wins, hence the omission of the likes of Steve Mortimer and Peter Sterling.”

    Greg Inglis

    The Maroons run onto the field (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

    Liam Hauser’s top ten Origin players

    1. Cam Smith
    The first to play 40 State of Origin matches, Cameron Smith deserves to be ranked number one. It requires a lot of durability and tenacity to play as much Origin football as Smith has, not to mention Test and club football as well.

    From the time he racked up 39 tackles and scored a try in his Origin debut in Game 3 of 2003, Smith has consistently been the cornerstone of Queensland teams. A workhorse who tackles his heart out, Smith also makes decisive runs from dummy-half and can kick astutely.

    He never goes missing and never even has quiet times as he is always looking to be involved. He has shown a rare ability to read a game and perceive things that one would think can only be observed from the sidelines.

    He can also control the ruck speed and the tempo of a game: extremely rare abilities. Leads by example and is a masterful tactician. The complete player at the elite level.

    Cameron Smith Queensland Maroons State of Origin NRL Rugby League 2017

    Cameron Smith (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    2. Johnathan Thurston
    Becoming recognised as one of the best – if not the best – players in rugby league history, Johnathan Thurston has also been a lynchpin of Queensland’s phenomenal success from 2006. Thurston has always been the player who the Maroons could turn to for inspiration, and rarely has he let them down.

    Like Cameron Smith, Thurston has shown the ability to read a game as if he were watching it from the sidelines. Nippy, quick and always hard to shut down, Thurston has consistently shown an ability to lift when the chips are down as he probes and is often elusive.

    Always wanting his hands on the ball, Thurston knows how to bamboozle opponents and set up tries or score himself, and pounce on a loose ball, no matter what the situation of the game. Also able to kick goals and field goals, Thurston is the ultimate competitor who refuses to consider defeat as an option.

    3. Wally Lewis
    Always destined to be considered the king of State of Origin, Wally Lewis has a bronze statue outside Suncorp Stadium. Many people might think he should always be named as the greatest Origin player, but I rank Smith and Thurston higher as they have exceeded Lewis’ deeds in some ways, particularly in terms of longevity and number of series wins.

    He bowed out a winner from the arena in 1991, having played 30 Origin matches (plus the exhibition match in 1987) and claimed man of the match accolades a record eight times. An inspirational leader, his mere presence always made a huge difference, such was the aura about him.

    4. Andrew Johns
    Rated by some as the greatest rugby league player of all time, Andrew Johns was an automatic choice as best NSW Origin player. He had some of his best Origin games as halfback in 2002, 2003 and 2005, winning a man-of-the-match award in each of these series.

    In terms of his leadership, kicking game, running the ball, setting up tries and occasionally scoring them, Johns was a star. He could also inflict some punishing tackles. His goal-kicking was wayward at times but history has shown that that has happened to most goal-kickers at Origin level.

    5. Allan Langer
    Longevity was something that made Allan Langer stand out in Origin football. From his Origin debut, Langer showed many great qualities as he was quick, elusive, threatening, and able to produce dangerous chip-kicks and grubber-kicks as well as high kicks.

    He could turn a game with an individual piece of brilliance or set up teammates, and make opponents look dumbfounded. Langer was also strong in defence as he belied his size, and never shirked his task nor looked intimidated.

    6. Darren Lockyer
    Darren Lockyer retired as Origin’s most capped player with 36 appearances and although that figure has since been beaten, Lockyer’s longevity and durability remain impressive.

    Consistently an excellent player at club and Test level, Lockyer had peaks and troughs at Origin level but still deserves to be ranked highly, having skippered Queensland 22 times and held aloft the Origin shield six times.

    A brilliant attacking player with the ability to create something out of nothing, Lockyer could break through any defence to set up tries and score himself, while also having a fine kicking game.

    7. Mal Meninga
    Winning nine series out of ten (including eight straight) as coach was a staggering achievement for Mal Meninga, but it should not be forgotten that he was an all-time great player.

    He was Origin’s leading pointscorer until Johnathan Thurston broke the record. A powerful runner in the centres, Meninga had a strong fend and was always a formidable presence as he could break the line and attract several defenders. He could also inflict bone-jarring tackles. The only thing that eluded him was a series win as captain.

    8. Laurie Daley
    Laurie Daley had a nervous start to Origin football as a 19-year-old in 1989 before coming of age in 1992.

    Appointed captain, he subsequently led NSW to three consecutive series wins – something that the Blues had never achieved before.

    Daley led by example when skipper, and was a most consistent player for NSW. With the ability to probe, draw an opponent, break through the defensive line and set up breaks for teammates, Daley was best suited to five-eighth although he sometimes played in the centres.

    9. Brett Kenny
    Brett Kenny opposed Wally Lewis at five-eighth on 12 occasions in Origin football, with NSW winning eight of them. The influence that Kenny could have was never better exemplified than in 1986 as NSW won 3-0 for the first time.

    If any player could be singled out as the difference between the two teams, it was Kenny. With dynamic footwork and the ability to swerve, Kenny could peel through gaps that seemingly didn’t exist.

    Kenny could also kick effectively when called upon, and in defence he was no passenger as he could pressure his opponent. A genuine all-round classy player.

    10 – Brad Fittler
    NSW’s youngest Origin player at 18 years of age in 1990, Brad Fittler became NSW’s most capped player. Regardless of what position he played in and whether or not he was captain, Fittler was always a formidable presence.

    His footwork and agility constantly worried the opposing defence and kept his opponents guessing as he could set up teammates or break the line himself. Very strong, Fittler could take on the line from close range and often score as a result.

    Fittler was also strong in defence and had a reliable kicking game. Any team featuring Fittler was always a lot stronger with his presence.

    Liam Hauser is also the author of The Great Grand Finals: Rugby League’s Greatest Contests and A Century of Cricket Tests.

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • Roar Guru

      May 24th 2018 @ 3:16am
      BigJ said | May 24th 2018 @ 3:16am | ! Report

      I’m confused 🤷‍♀️. Is this your top ten list or Hauser”s? If it’s Hauser’s how did this get published as it’s not an original piece??? Ever heard of plagiarism??? Atleast when I did my top tens they were my own lists with my own justifications not copying someone else’s work. Poor article if this is the case.

      • Roar Guru

        May 24th 2018 @ 8:15am
        The Barry said | May 24th 2018 @ 8:15am | ! Report

        I can help Big J.

        The reason you’re confused is you’re using big words like plagiarism without knowing what they mean. Again.

        Look it up. Read the article again and your confusion should be at an end.

        At least until the next time a seven year old tries to tell you a knock knock joke…

      • Roar Rookie

        May 25th 2018 @ 8:37pm
        Lee Oliver said | May 25th 2018 @ 8:37pm | ! Report

        Hi BigJ. This is my original article about Liam’s top 10 list, based on communications between Liam and I.

    • Roar Guru

      May 24th 2018 @ 6:31am
      The Barry said | May 24th 2018 @ 6:31am | ! Report

      I would have Wally Lewis as number one.

      Smith and Thurston are great players but they’ve been part of. Queensland juggernaut.

      So many times Lewis carried teams that contained the likes of Mike McLean and the French brothers on his shoulders. He won more games “single handedly” than any player I’ve seen including his 1989 piece de resistance. For me it’s a coin flip between that and Joey Johns’ Game 2 2005 masterclass for the best individual performance I’ve seen.

      I don’t know about Brett Kenny. I think that stat against Wally Lewis is exaggerated. It’s widely known the 85 series was all down to Steve Mortimer who basically coached, captained, motivated and cajoled the team to victory. It was Mortimer that ‘defeated’ Lewis in that series by designing tactics to mitigate Lewis’ skill set, not Kenny.

      The 1986 3-0 victory was off the back of NSWs dominance in the forwards with a pack of Roach, Simmons, Tunks, Folkes, Cleal, Pearce and Gillespie off the bench. Arguably one of the most well balanced forward packs of all time. That was the main reason NSW beat Queensland that year, not that Kenny got over the top of Lewis.

      And sorry Queenslanders, I’m going to query Allan Langer’s spot in the top 10. Overall he had a 50% winning percentage with 17 wins from 34 games. But he came into the side in 87 and was part of 2-1, 3-0 and 3-0 series wins for Queensland. No doubt he played his role but he was very much the junior partner to Lewis.

      After those series and while he was Queensland’s main man he won 9 from 25. So you can certainly argue about his individual contribution but the author spoke of longevity and success as his two main criteria. Well, Langer certainly had longevity but success is questionable. There are certainly a lot of Origin players with better records. The bulk of Langer’s origin career coincided with NSW’s most successful period.

      Now Lockyer….

      • Roar Rookie

        May 24th 2018 @ 11:29am
        Ray Stewart said | May 24th 2018 @ 11:29am | ! Report

        Not rating Lockyer, thank God you are not a Hall of Fame or Immortal selector for that matter.

        • Roar Guru

          May 24th 2018 @ 12:09pm
          The Barry said | May 24th 2018 @ 12:09pm | ! Report

          I didn’t say anything about Lockyer

          • Roar Rookie

            May 24th 2018 @ 4:16pm
            Ray Stewart said | May 24th 2018 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

            Didn’t you have Terry Lamb ahead of Lockyer as a better player…8 origins compared to 36, total bah bah

            • Roar Guru

              May 24th 2018 @ 5:03pm
              The Barry said | May 24th 2018 @ 5:03pm | ! Report

              You’re telling the story…why didn’t you bring it up then instead of waiting however long until a completely unrelated article?

              The only “knock” I’ve ever had on Lockyer is that I don’t think he’s quite up to immortal standard.

              If saying someone is half a rung below the best players of all time is bagging him then I’m guilty.

              Sorry if you’re upset that I don’t love your favourite player as much as you do…

      • May 24th 2018 @ 1:57pm
        3 recalcitrant monkeys said | May 24th 2018 @ 1:57pm | ! Report

        Chewed through this article this morning but put the phone away lest I bitterly lash out . THanks TB for stating the actual reality . Because watching games in fast forward or while your asleep doesn’t count as research.

      • May 27th 2018 @ 5:14pm
        Latte said | May 27th 2018 @ 5:14pm | ! Report

        Don’t let accuracy get in the way of your lack of respect for Brett Kenny. Go back and take a look at the 1985 series, if you think Brett Kenny did not have much to do with winning Games 1 and 2. Game 1 he was involved in both tries and directly setup Michael O’Connor’s second try and came within millimetre’s of scoring himself in the first half after a scything run through the QLD defence. In Game 2 he won every man of the match award other than the Channel 9 and was clearly the best player on the field, selling a dummy to King Wally to clinch the first series for NSW. Yes Mortimer was inspirational and galvanised the team but you’re being dismissive of the huge impact Brett Kenny had on that series.

        In 1986, yes NSW had a very good forward pack but so did QLD. It was the first year any side completed a whitewash and he was a huge part of the clean sweep. NSW defeated a team 3-0 which included Wally Lewis, Gene Miles, Mal Meninga, Greg Dowling and Dale Shearer just to name a few. There’s no need to believe me go back and watch those games or better yet, read the written words of the QLDers in that team form the many Origin books that have been published over the years.

        The stats clearly show that when Brett Kenny played 5/8, NSW had a good chance of winning and this is no coincidence.

    • Roar Guru

      May 24th 2018 @ 7:23am
      BigJ said | May 24th 2018 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      For once I agree with you Barry, Lewis is and will always been the best Origin player. But I’m confused about this article, is it the author that wrote it or has he copied some else’s list and made it his own? Thought all works had to be your own??

      • Roar Guru

        May 24th 2018 @ 8:17am
        The Barry said | May 24th 2018 @ 8:17am | ! Report

        You agree with me all the time JJ.

        It’s just that with your goldfish brain every time feels like the first.

        I wish I had a dollar for every time you’ve started a comment with “for once I agree with you Barry…”

        Good times. Dyn-o-mite!!

        • Roar Guru

          May 24th 2018 @ 11:08am
          Con Scortis said | May 24th 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

          It was sad when the dad died TB

          • Roar Guru

            May 24th 2018 @ 11:14am
            The Barry said | May 24th 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

            But triumphant when he returned in Die Hard 2: Die Harder!

        • May 24th 2018 @ 12:40pm
          Mushi said | May 24th 2018 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

          Mate, there’s really no need for that.

          • Roar Guru

            May 24th 2018 @ 1:02pm
            The Barry said | May 24th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

            Oh well, you know what they say, diff’rent strokes

            Whatchoo talkin bout Mushi ?

            • Roar Guru

              May 24th 2018 @ 1:03pm
              The Barry said | May 24th 2018 @ 1:03pm | ! Report

              I’m sorry…I feel like reporting myself for that

    • May 24th 2018 @ 9:48am
      Johnsy love child said | May 24th 2018 @ 9:48am | ! Report

      Greatest ever? What an absolute joke! I don’t what the hell the writer has been smoking but maybe best grub ever in Origin! But no way in the class of Steve Mortimer & Johnsy! Wouldn’t even hold a candle to these legends! I’ve been watching every Origin for 40yrs & in no way is he in the class or list that you have made!

      • Roar Pro

        May 24th 2018 @ 1:48pm
        Chris Charlton said | May 24th 2018 @ 1:48pm | ! Report

        I very much disagree, even if Smithy isn’t no.1 he should very much be in the top 5. For a man with the physique of Bruce Banner, he’s a veritable Hulk in the hardest representative arena. Even with Lockyer, Thurston, Slater, Inglis around him, he’s won more man of the match awards than everyone other than the King. Second to Wally Lewis?? I’d take that.

    • May 24th 2018 @ 11:03am
      Big Daddy said | May 24th 2018 @ 11:03am | ! Report

      Considering origin has been going for since 1980 don’t know how you’ve watched for 40.

    • Roar Guru

      May 24th 2018 @ 11:41am
      Matt H said | May 24th 2018 @ 11:41am | ! Report

      As much as I love Alfie, like all good Queenslanders should, he is no way in the top 5. i think you are neglecting the engine rooms. Big matches are often won by the forwards and in no particular order the forwards that contributed to dominant eras for their teams are:

      Glenn Lazarus (ok there is a particular order- Lazo should be a straight swap for Langer)
      Petero Civ…….
      Bob Lindner
      Steve Roach
      Bradley Clyde
      Sam Backo
      Matt Scott

      I’m sure there were others. but you just need to look at the winning eras for each team (e.g. late 80’s QLD, early and late 90’s NSW and the last decade) and pick the dominant forwards from those games.

      • Roar Guru

        May 24th 2018 @ 11:42am
        Matt H said | May 24th 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

        And I forgot Shane Webcke, Steven Price and Paul Sironen

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