YOU can still get away with more in State of Origin than in NRL games, according to Melbourne and Queensland captain Cameron Smith
But the Australia hooker admitted on the eve of tonight’s opening NSW v Queensland game at ANZ Stadium he was unsure of exactly how much more.
“I think to some degree it’s still the case,” said Smith, when asked about the traditional perception that the interstate series is played under an unofficial second set of rules.
“But there’s a fairly strict rule on the shoulder charge … now and it’s going to be interesting on the ruck interpretation as well.
“We’ve seen it’s been a lot faster at club level this year. We’re just going to have to figure out the referees in the first 10 minutes or so, to see what they’re allowing in the ruck.
“State of Origin, traditionally, is a bit slower. They allow a bit more work on the ground. “
Smith indicated he wanted match officials to be less pedantic than they are at club level. “I think State of Origin’s a better game when there’s a bit more flowing footy,” he said.
“As long as there’s nothing illegal (where they say) ‘let’s sweep that under the carpet’.
“I think the fans would like to see a free-flowing game, rather than the ref pulling his whistle out every two minutes.”
Smith described last year’s performance by the Maroons as the worst in their seven-year winning run.
He said the effect of a pending assault investigation on interchange forward Ben Te’o remained somewhat unknown.
“There’s no way any of us are going to know how he’s going to go out and play,” Smith said.
“But from as far as I’ve seen this week, he’s a really good place. He’s had the opportunity to get back down to Sydney, he’s gone to his house, he’s settled in, it’s been a really good week for him.
“It’s been a nice distraction for him. I think it’s been good for him to get into camp and get his head on his preparation for this game.”
Speaking about Queensland’s likely approach, Smith said: “We just want to be careful with the width that we play and the style of footy we play.
“We don’t want to be too expansive in game one and turn the ball over and get put into touch.”
Meanwhile, Storm coach Craig Bellamy yesterday admitted that backing up after a long break has been a problem at the club for “18 months, even two years”.
He said on Sunday night he expected Cronulla five-eighth Todd Carney to be “out to prove a few people wrong over his Origin non-selection” when the sides clash at AAMI Park.
Bellamy said he was “a bit surprised” by Carney’s snubbing but “there’s no-one better than Laurie Daley to pick the NSW five-eighth”.
The coach said he would have little hesitation in resting Origin players who pulled up sore, and stressed he was eager to give stalwart Brett Finch a game somewhere.
“(The season) has been frustrating for him but it’s been frustrating for me too because he definitely deserves a place there,” Bellamy said.
“Last year, I don’t think the non-Origin players stepped up as well as they usually do. That was definitely an issue.”
Filed for: THE AGE