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Qld veterans not showing their age

The buzz word for Queensland this year may be "transition" - but it seems their veteran players won't be hanging up their Maroon jerseys any time soon.
Qld veterans not showing their age
by AAP

By Laine Clark

COOLUM, Qld July 11 AAP - The buzz word for Queensland this year may be "transition" - but it seems their veteran players won't be hanging up their Maroon jerseys any time soon.

A day after he joined teammate Justin Hodges in denying he had decided next week's State of Origin decider would be his last, Brent Tate warned the rest of Queensland's "Dad's Army" could play well into their 30s.

Queensland coach Mal Meninga has begun planning for the future by blooding Daly Cherry-Evans and Josh Papalii this series and naming young Melbourne flyer Will Chambers as 19th man for Origin III.

However, Tate - one of six players in Queensland's starting line-up on the wrong side of 30 - said Maroons fans should not start getting all nostalgic about players' Origin careers just yet.

In what would send a shiver down the spines of long suffering Blues fans, Tate said the likes of captain Cameron Smith and playmaker Johnathan Thurston had the potential to match the longevity of Queensland's oldest player Petero Civoniceva who finally hung up the boots at 36.

"We do have a few older guys in the team, but the Thurstons and the Smiths will play well into their 30s," Tate told AAP.

"I have no doubt about it.

"They will be like the Lockys (Darren Lockyer who retired at 34) and Peteros where they have big, long careers.

"A transition is important but those guys do have a lot of footy ahead of them."

Hodges - a veteran of 17 Origins since his 2002 debut - summed up what the veterans' mentality was like as Queensland vied for a remarkable eighth straight series win over the Blues.

"Like everyone if you are playing good footy for the team and can help the team out, you never want to give up your jersey that easy," he told AAP.

If Tate is right then Lockyer's all-time Origin games record of 36 is under serious threat.

At 30, Smith will mark just as many Origin games in Sydney next Wednesday night.

He certainly sounds like he has the passion to play on for a few more years to come.

"You grow up as a proud Queensland kid and when you are watching State of Origin you can see the hatred between the two states," Smith said.

"I have got a really good mate who plays for NSW - (Melbourne teammate) Ryan Hoffman - but in that 80 minutes when he has a sky blue jersey on I don't like him at all - and he's the same.

"That's the nature of the beast."

If talk of Meninga's transition policy had made veterans think twice about their longevity, Smith hinted they were dismissed after their stunning 26-6 game two win in Brisbane that locked up the tense series.

"It was nice to show we are not a Dad's Army, that we are still a good footy side," he said.


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