Titan primed to make Origin mark
THE departure of the "father figure" who guided Jarrod Wallace through his State of Origin baptism has ignited a fire within the Titans prop as Queensland fight to fill the seismic void left by Cameron Smith.
"Shocked and gobsmacked" at news of Smith's representative retirement yesterday, Wallace said the record-breaking Maroons rake had played a greater role than most in his Origin emergence in 2017.
After serving as 18th man in Game One last year, Wallace was impressive as a starting prop in the final two games, sealing victory in the decider with a maiden Origin try.
With Queensland desperate to cover Smith's absence in this year's series opener on June 6, the 26-year-old is ready to stamp his authority as one of the game's elite front rowers.
"Last year I was nervous and excited and all the emotions of Origin was going through (me), and I'm sure if I was picked again it'd be the exact same, but I have played it now so I know what the speed was and things like that so it won't be a straight up shock," Wallace, who re-signed with the Titans until the end of 2022 on Monday, said.
"If I was to be picked I'd like to get more minutes and make more of a mark. I'm ready to go again and I want to play Origin more than ever.
"I think I've done all right this year so if I've done enough to get picked I'll be stoked and I'll be ready to go if Kevvie (Walters) does give me that call."
With a record 42 appearances for the Maroons, including 21 as captain, Smith was a calming influence in Wallace's first Origin campaign.
"Just that one series last year (with him) was phenomenal to be a part of. The confidence that he brought for me and the guys in there last year was huge and that helped us a lot going into the series.
"It made me feel comfortable having him next to me. He's not a guy who'll say much but when he does, everyone sits there and listens. He was like a father figure almost, no-one else talks when Smithy talks.
"I was shocked (at the retirement news). He's the core of the team. He's been there for 15, 16 years, he's the guy that leads the team around and gets the forwards going when he needs to, he runs and he's got his kicking game out of (dummy half).
"It's a huge loss but it's also exciting for guys like Andrew McCullough and Jake Friend that now obviously get that opportunity, which they probably didn't think either.
"It's a step forward in Queensland's future but it's a huge blow for the team that's been so dominant over the last 12 years."