Storm captain the driving force behind club form
WHETHER you think he's just whining or understandably upset, Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett had predicted the club's form slump during State of Origin.
He's not the only coach to feel the burden of representative rugby league with Paul Green (Cowboys) and Craig Bellamy (Storm) also losing some of their biggest stars for the three-game series.
The Brisbane 'supercoach' has once again seen the strong form of his players rewarded with their absence from regular rugby league.
Surely the NRL will see sense and make the series a stand-alone event which no longer disadvantages club's and puts physical strains on players who only want to do the best for their club and state.
Unfortunately with the current system they cannot do both. Instead it's a competition 'leveller' which allows teams like the Tigers (12th) and the Warriors (11th) to defeat a second-string Brisbane outfit.
Bennett and Bellamy will find themselves face-to-face this weekend when the Broncos welcome Melbourne to Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
While the Broncos have slipped from second place on the NRL ladder, the Storm have surged to rival Cronulla in the same period. Much of the Storm's success during the Origin period has been the ability of their captain to defy his aging body.
At 33 years old, Smith shows no sign of slowing down and his ability to kick from dummy half continues to cause headaches for any opposition.
The return of Andrew McCullough couldn't come at a better time for Brisbane with the handy hooker facing a baptism by fire against the Australian representative hooker.
As well as having six players coming in and out for Origin duty, the Broncos have sorely missed their star trio, McCullough, Alex Glenn and Jordan Kahu.
Now with all three slated to return the Broncos need to bounce back quickly to keep their minor premiership hopes alive.
Jack Reed is another piece to Bennett's premiership puzzle but will have to wait for his return from a shoulder injury.
Last year the Broncos moved from third to first during the Origin period with their best performance during that period in years.
Some might say that was evidence that Brisbane should stop complaining and that the feat was possible.
However I think it only goes to show just how hard the club had to work to reach the grand final like they did.
Virtually in fourth place (with Parramatta to lose 12 competition points), Brisbane face Penrith, Sydney and St George after next week's bye round.
With their full starting spine back together again Brisbane have a good chance to defeat Melbourne who are missing Cameron Munster and Blake Green.
For the first time in more than a month, it will be the Broncos who have a full contingent of play-makers and they will need them.