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NSW-Qld rivalries on hold, says Smith

Skipper Cameron Smith has rejected any suggestion that NSW-Queensland hostility could jeopardise Australia's bid to reclaim the Rugby League World Cup.
NSW-Qld rivalries on hold, says Smith
by AAP

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, Oct 10 AAP - Skipper Cameron Smith has rejected any suggestion that NSW-Queensland hostility could jeopardise Australia's bid to reclaim the Rugby League World Cup.

Preparing to lead the Kangaroos to the UK for the first time, Smith dismissed speculation of possible ill-feeling between Maroons and Blues players in the national squad as unfounded.

"With all due respect to you guys, I think it's a bit of a media beat-up and I can assure you there's no divisions in our side," Smith said on Thursday.

"All the guys play against one another in the NRL. I have played alongside a lot of the NSW boys for a long time now and get on great with them. As do the rest of us.

"This is not a NSW-Queensland combined team and we all get along and we're looking forward to having a good trip overseas."

Before the final State of Origin game in July, Greg Bird, one of 11 NSW players in coach Tim Sheens' 24-man Australian squad, spoke of increased tension exacerbated by the Maroons' long Origin winning streak.

"I think the rivalry is a lot bigger," said Bird. "You can tell in the Australian team that the rivalry is there.

"It's definitely stronger than back in 2007 when I debuted."

NSW skipper Paul Gallen - the Kangaroos vice-captain - has previously spoken of players from the two states sitting at different tables for meals in Test camp.

There was also the resentment caused by the singing of the Queensland victory song after the Maroons-dominated Kangaroos' win over New Zealand in Townsville last year.

That was before the flashpoints in this year's Origin series which included Gallen's punch to Nate Myles' face, with NSW players accusing Kangaroos forward Myles of dirty play.

Despite all this Smith is confident the 24-man national squad is united and fully focused on beating a strong England side in the opening fixture of the tournament on October 26.

Smith's confidence of Kangaroos unity was backed by Queensland centre Brent Tate, back in the international arena for the first time since 2010.

"It comes up every year this issue, and I honestly can say I have never seen any problems," Tate told AAP.

"We're all Australians when we pull on this green and gold jumper and winning games for our country means everything to all of us.

"Origin is Origin, but this is about winning a World Cup for Australia, nothing else."

Test debutant Josh Papalii is another player to have a run-in with Gallen during a game for Canberra last year when he was accused of a "dog shot" by the Blues captain.

The young Maroons enforcer admitted he was slightly nervous about heading into camp for the first time and revealed the first person he bumped into was Gallen.

"He was very nice when I came in and shook my hand and we had a joke," Papalii told AAP.

"I can say he is someone I am happy to be on the same side as. I definitely wouldn't want to fight him."

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