Walters responds to Smith Origin rumours
KEVIN Walters says he will not "at this stage'' sound out Cameron Smith about making a State of Origin comeback due to injuries in Queensland's ball-handling positions.
Walters had said last month that "the ship had sailed'' on Smith as an Origin player, before hooking contender Jake Friend was ruled unavailable for the entire series.
Then halfback Daly Cherry-Evans suffered an ankle injury which puts him in doubt for the June 5 clash with NSW.
The option of recalling Smith, who has played a record 42 Origin matches, as hooker and captain, gained fresh momentum when his club coach Craig Bellamy said he would be "keen'' to have the 35-year-old on board if he was Queensland coach.
Asked if he would now approach Smith to make an Origin comeback, Walters said: "No, not at this stage. Cameron has said that it's time for the younger Queenslanders to get their chance.''
Outside Smith, incumbent Maroons hooker Andrew McCullough and Ben Hunt are the options for the Queensland No.9 role to be decided in four weeks by the state selectors.
Bellamy said Melbourne would agree with Smith if he wished to make himself available for his first Origin match since the 2017 series.
Queensland has been stripped 164 games of Origin experience since that series win, with the retirement of Greg Inglis (32 Origin games), Billy Slater (31), Johnathan Thurston (37) along with two stars reserving their energies now for NRL duty - Smith (42), and Cooper Cronk (22).
"If I was Kevvie I'd be really keen for him to be playing," Bellamy said.
"Over two series they've lost a lot of key position players so there's been a heap of changes to their team so to get some stability back in there would be a good thing for them.
"If Cameron wanted to play Origin again, he'd do so with my blessing.
"I'm not quite sure he'd want to go back and play after making that break last year.
"I couldn't see him doing it but stranger things have happened in our game.''
Smith said last year he wanted to play his remaining seasons without the additional pressures of the six-week Origin block.
"I think he's playing well enough to play Origin without a doubt,'' Bellamy said.