Maroons Call For Bumper NSW Crowd
He doesn't particularly care if he lifts the 2016 Holden State of Origin shield to an empty stadium but Queensland captain Cameron Smith believes Blues players deserve a full house to watch them do battle on Wednesday night.
More than 80,000 fans turned out to ANZ Stadium to see Queensland win a tense battle 6-4 in Game One but estimates on Monday afternoon were for a crowd between 50,000 and 60,000 to what is essentially a dead rubber.
When Smith made his Origin debut in Game Three of the 2003 series that had already been won by New South Wales more than 52,000 Queenslanders packed into Suncorp Stadium and their reward was a 36-6 demolition that gave a portent of better days ahead.
With James Tedesco and Wade Graham taking the number of Blues debutants to eight this series a changing of the guard is happening south of the border and with captain Paul Gallen playing his 24th and final game for his state Smith said they deserve near enough to a full house.
"I'd be more disappointed if I was wearing a Blues jersey to be honest," Smith said of the predicted crowd figure.
"I played my first game at Suncorp at 2-0 and I think it was a full house so I'd hope to think we can get a few more in there come Wednesday night.
"The series is finished but they lost the first game by two, they were right in it up until the end of Game Two in Brisbane so the series hasn't been dominated by our team.
"We've been good enough to win the two games but get out and support your team, they're a quality team the Blues and they've got some wonderful young players coming through now."
Although Gallen has been a polarising figure north of the border and pilloried for having the poor fortune of playing his entire Origin career opposite one of the greatest rugby league teams ever assembled, even long-time adversary Johnathan Thurston said that the Blues skipper deserved a significant send off from his home crowd.
"It'd be a shame if their captain runs out to 60,000 people," Thurston said.
"He's played over 20 Origin games for them; that would be sad I would have thought."
Smith conceded the Maroons camp for Game Three has been more relaxed given the series win is already secure, but is conscious of not letting the new Blues blood settle into long and fruitful Origin careers.
"They've opted to bring in a couple of new players for this game and they're obviously looking slightly towards next year as well. We can't afford to go down there and not be ready," said Smith.
"We can't afford to not put in a good performance because that can give them a bit of self belief back and a bit of momentum going into next series.
"There's a little bit of pressure on the Blues because who wants to lose 3-0, particularly at home? To lose two games at home wouldn't be a nice feeling and their captain's playing his last game so they want to send him out a winner.
"There is a little bit of pressure on those guys but at the same time but I don't think they'll be feeling it as much as they were in game one and two."
Regardless of the result it will be Smith who lifts the shield at the post-match ceremony.
Lifting shields above his head since he was an 11-year-old leading Logan Brothers to a President's Flag win over Marsden Mustangs at Greenbank, Smith said raising the Origin shield for a fifth time would be one of the greatest honours of his career.
"There's no doubt it's an honour to captain the team firstly but to be able to lift the shield is a wonderful feeling, no matter what venue or state I'm in," Smith said.
"There might not be many Queenslanders at ANZ Stadium on Wednesday but there will be plenty watching back home watching that ceremony happen.
"It's a special moment and moments I've spent as a child myself at home in my lounge room watching all of the great captains of Queensland do so to have that opportunity to do that is quite an honour."
This article first appeared on NRL.com
Farewell one of our greatest Origin captains, Paul Gallen, by being a part of The Star-backed Blatchys Blues for Origin III. Click here to purchase tickets and to secure a seat to witness history. Don’t forget, for all the latest on the VB Blues and State of Origin, download the official NSWRL app and make www.NSWRL.com.au your homepage.