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Smith backs Tate for Maroons Origin spot

Cameron Smith is set to lead Queensland out as captain for the State of Origin opener in Melbourne and says he'd love to run out with veteran back Brent Tate alongside him at Etihad Stadium on May 23.
Smith backs Tate for Maroons Origin spot
by NRL

By Ian McCullough

SYDNEY, May 3 AAP - Cameron Smith is set to lead Queensland out as captain for the State of Origin opener in Melbourne and says he'd love to run out with veteran back Brent Tate alongside him at Etihad Stadium on May 23.

While NSW have their annual debate about what players can stop the Maroons from sealing a seventh successive series win, Queensland selectors only have to decide on two spots in their 17.

The positions up for grabs are the wing spot vacated by Jharal Yow Yeh's horrific ankle injury and the bench utility role, which will be fought out between Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans and Brisbane pair Matt Gillett and Corey Parker.

Tate, who can play centre or wing, has 15 Origin appearances behind him, in addition to 23 Tests, but hasn't represented Queensland since 2008.

The 30-year-old faces competition from North Queensland wideman Ashley Graham and Melbourne's Dane Nielsen, but a Maroons recall would cap off a stunning turnaround for a player whose career looked over following a third knee reconstruction in 2010.

Tate's emotional breakdown was played out on live TV after he was pictured in tears in the dressing room, after being diagnosed with a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament at halftime during the Four Nations final in Brisbane.

And Smith said no one would be more deserving of the chance to play Origin again than the 30-year-old former Warriors and Broncos star.

"We have a few options. There are a couple of fullbacks who are going well who you could put out on the wing," Smith told AAP on Thursday.

"But Brent Tate is a great winger and that's who I'd go with. He's been there and done it before. He knows what it's all about and is a competitor and those are the guys you need in Origin.

"He's been a part of Origin-winning teams and knows how to get the job done."

Gillett and Cherry-Evans were both part of the Kangaroos squad that played in New Zealand last month but neither managed to get on the field.

Parker impressed Queensland selectors in last year's series and is very much in the frame, but Smith is a paid-up member of the Gillett appreciation society.

"I am a really big fan of Matt Gillett," Smith said.

"He's been playing great now for a few years and he's very consistent with his football. Very rarely do you see a bad game from him and that's what needed at representative level.

"I know he really enjoyed the week in New Zealand getting a taste of rep footy. I don't know what the selectors are planning on doing, but I know 'Gillo' won't let anyone down."

Smith said he was unconcerned about who'll play opposite him at hooker for the Blues with Robbie Farah, Ryan Hinchcliffe and Michael Ennis all chasing the No.9 shirt.

"It must be an annual ritual of the Blues to try and put us off a bit by not knowing their side," Smith said.

"All three are very good players and offer something different. But I'm not thinking about the Blues just yet. It's about us having a healthy squad before we get to camp, then we'll focus on game one."




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