Cameron Smith chose a strange time to quit rep football, says Tony Durkin.
Cameron Smith chose a strange time to quit rep football, says Tony Durkin. DAVE HUNT

Cameron's timing intrigues

HIS immaculate service from dummy half for the Storm, Maroons and Kangaroos has doubtless been a major factor in Cameron Smith being feted this past week as the most influential rugby league player of all time.

But while the timing of his passes may have been perfection personified, millions of Queenslanders are asking "why now?” in respect of his decision on Tuesday to announce he was quitting the rep arena - effective immediately.

The man himself - the most-capped player in Origin history - adequately answered that query in a 30-minute press conference deemed so significant it was telecast live on Fox Sports.

In simple terms, the 42-gamer has had enough. His 34-year-old body - and his mind - doesn't recover like it once did.

And that is logical. Since he debuted in 2003, Smith has missed just the one Origin game, which means he has been in 41 camps - away from home and away from his young family - for upwards of 400 days.

There will be those adamant he could not have done more for his state. But, of course he could. He could have played one more series.

Queensland was desperate for a genuine No.9 when Smith was called into the Maroons squad for game three of the 2003 series.

Bit-part hookers PJ Marsh and Michael Crocker had been dummy half in the first two losing games and Smith proved the difference, with Queensland winning the third match.

And while a crack No.9 will be selected for the MCG on June 6 - Andrew McCullough, Jake Friend, Jake Granville or Ben Hunt - the Maroons need Smith more now than they did 15 years ago.

Before his shock announcement on Tuesday, Queensland's prospects of taking its recent record to 12 wins from the past 13 series were already looking wobbly.

Not only had the match-winning halves combination of Thurston and Cronk called it quits, but experienced forwards Matt Gillett and Josh Maguire are unlikely to play any part in the series.

Throw in the fact that veterans Matt Scott, Darius Boyd and Sam Thaiday are - at best - in average form, and alarm bells are sounding louder than during the '90s, when Queensland struggled to win a series.

Smith's retirement not only means the Maroons lose their captain, their dummy half and their goal-kicker, but the final part of their series-dominating three-man brains trust has also gone.

So, the question remains - "why now?” Why three weeks out from game one at the MCG, just a few hundred metres from Smith's home ground in Melbourne? Why not at the end of last year's series, as Thurston did, or at the start of this season, as Cronk did?

Could it have been, as many have suggested, a reaction to being charged by the NRL for his so-called wishbone tackle on former Storm teammate Kevin Proctor?

Maybe that was not the reason, but so odd was the timing of his announcement that his suspension adds that dash of intrigue to the question "why now?”



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