As rumours of a falling out swirl, Cam Smith has shown his class with a heartfelt pre-game message to Billy Slater.
Smith, who retired from rep football on the eve of the 2018 Origin season, took to Twitter to wish the Queensland Maroons luck and to congratulate Slater on a very special achievements.
Due to Smith’s sudden exit from the Origin arena, and a hand injury to Greg Inglis, Slater will captain the Maroons in Origin III, his final ever match for the state.
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The gravity of the situation certainly wasn’t lost on Smith, even despite reports the pair aren’t getting on as well as they used to.
“Best of luck to the @QLDMaroons boys tonight!” Smith’s tweet reads.
“Special mention to Bill leading the side as skipper in his last game for QLD.
“Congratulations to you, Nicole (Slater’s wife) and the family mate, enjoy it!”
Best of luck to the @QLDMaroons boys tonight! Special mention to Bill leading the side as skipper in his last game for QLD. Congratulations to you, Nicole and the family mate, enjoy it! @BillySlater #Origin #QLDER pic.twitter.com/lT0AhojyHJ
— Cameron Smith (@camsmith9) July 11, 2018
Reports of a falling out between Smith, Slater and their former teammate Cooper Cronk have captured the attention of league fans in recent weeks.
There have been suggestions that issues may have arisen between the partners of Smith and Slater.
Moreover, Smith was rumoured to have given Cronk the cold-shoulder, due to his move to premiership-rivals the Sydney Roosters.
However the players themselves have refused to be drawn into the gossip, with Slater saying just days ago that his relationships with both Smith and Slater “are fine”.
“I have got no problems with Cam. Cam and I are fine, Cooper and I are fine,” Slater said.
“I am not going to stand here and gossip about other people’s relationships, as far as I am concerned I am okay with everyone.”
While keen to end any feud rumours, Slater admitted he did not seek out advice from Smith before taking over Queensland reins for the first time in his final Origin.
“Not really, I am going to go out there and do my job,” he said.
“I have not spoken to anyone about that to anyone.
“I have learned a lot over the years playing under Cam, under (Darren) Lockyer, they are great leaders of men – I will work it out myself.”
Slater was more worried about what his emotions would be like in his final Origin as Queensland look to avoid NSW’s first series whitewash since 2000.
“I have thought about walking out of the tunnel (for the last time) and what I will be feeling,” Slater said.
“It’s been a big part of my life, the last 15 years. I just feel super grateful and privileged to be able to achieve what I have, to be a member of the teams I have been with and the success that we have had.
“It’s been such a great ride. I am sure a few emotions will run through my body when I do run out and sing the national anthem.
“Hopefully we can go out there and make it a memorable occasion, not only for myself but my family and the team.”