Cameron Smith has surprisingly called an end to his representative career with Queensland and Australia just three weeks out from the beginning of the State of Origin series.
The 34-year-old officially announced his representative retirement at a media conference in Melbourne on Tuesday.
Smith said it was the right time to exit the representative arena.
“It’s been a fairly lengthy process for me to come to this decision,” he said.
“I probably started having small thoughts about finishing up my representative career last year.”
Smith said the strain of the 2017 Origin series and Rugby League World Cup had helped make his mind up.
“The origin series in particular had an effect on me both physically and mentally out of any year I played,” he said.
“Looking back on it now I don’t think that it is fair on myself, I don’t think it’s fair on my family and also my teammates back here at Melbourne Storm.”
Smith made over 40 Origin appearances and captained the Maroons to six series victories.
He also led the Kangaroos to wins in the 2013 and 2017 Rugby League World Cups.
Smith’s exit coincides with the representative retirements of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, which were announced at the end of last year.
Since making his debut for Queensland in 2003, Smith has played a record 42 Origins for the Maroons and has been captain of the side since 2012.
In that period he missed just one game — the series opener in 2010 due to injury — and won a record 26 matches.
Smith described as ‘a great person for the game’
Smith thanked his Storm coach Craig Bellamy for his support during his representative career, as well as his former Maroons mentors Mal Meninga and Wayne Bennett.
“Not only did they make me a better footballer and a better captain but a better person overall as well,” he said.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters joked he would have liked Smith to play on in “30-minute spells”.
But he paid tribute to Smith, who he described as an outstanding “ambassador” and “student” in rugby league.
“He’s been a great person for the game, more than anything else,” Walters said.
“Respect, humility, all those things you like to see in people he shows that in every day of his life.”
Smith’s decision is likely to springboard Brisbane hooker Andrew McCullough into contention for a Queensland debut, while Jake Granville of the Cowboys could be another option.
Darius Boyd, Billy Slater or Greg Inglis are the most likely candidates to take over the captaincy, however Boyd has battled form and fitness at Brisbane this season.