It is the end of an era in Melbourne and the NRL.

Cameron Smith – arguably rugby league's greatest ever player – ended speculation over his future by announcing his retirement on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old star and future Immortal retires a one-club player – Smith was out of contract following 18 years with Melbourne Storm.

After Smith officially put an end to his playing career midweek, we look into the numbers behind the Storm, Queensland Maroons and Australia legend thanks to Opta.

 

430 – Smith holds the record for most NRL games following a glittering career in the Australian competition, having debuted for the Storm in 2002. He is the only player to have amassed over 400 appearances.

310 – He also holds the record for most wins in premiership matches. Of those victories, 242 were as skipper – the most as a captain.

2,786 – No player has scored more points in NRL premiership history than the hooker, well ahead of Hazem El Masri (2,418) and Johnathan Thurston (2,222).

1,295 – Smith stands alone for goals kicked in the NRL – 353 more than any other player in premiership history.

16,913 – Not just an elite kicker, Smith tallied the most tackles by any player since the beginning of the NRL era in 1998.

3 – Smith ends his NRL career with Premierships in 2012, 2017 and 2020. It could have been five, but the Storm were stripped of Grand Final triumphs in 2007 and 2009 due to salary-cap breaches.

42 – A Maroons veteran, he is the most-capped player in State of Origin history. Smith first appeared for Queensland in 2003.

56 – Smith represented Australia more than fifty times. Only Darren Lockyer (59) managed more than Smith for the Kangaroos.

33 – Lockyer (38) is the only player to have captained Australia on more occasions than Smith, who led the country to Rugby League World Cup glory in 2013 and 2017.

2 – Smith was crowned the NRL's best and fairest player in 2006 and 2017. Only Thurston (four) and Andrew Johns (three) earned more honours.

Melbourne Storm and NRL great Cameron Smith officially announced his retirement from rugby league on Wednesday.

There had been ongoing speculation over Smith's future, with the NRL's most-capped player linked with both Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans after relocating from Melbourne.

But the 37-year-old star will retire a one-club player after a record 430 games with the Storm, three NRL Premierships and two Dally M Medals.

Smith also captained Australia to Rugby League World Cup success in 2013 and 2017.

"I've spent a few months now up in Queensland with the family. For me I look back on my career and just found that I'm very fortunate to be part of an organisation with great people and footballers," Smith said ahead of the 2021 season, which gets underway on Thursday.

"It felt like the right time after the finish to last year. You couldn't have asked for more than finishing with a premiership at a club I've played my whole career."

Smith was out of contract following 18 years with the Storm in Melbourne.

The 42-time Queensland Maroons legend, who earned 56 caps for Australia, led the Storm to NRL glory last year.

"I've been wrestling with the decision for quite some time. In the weeks after the season had finished guys like Billy [Slater] and guys I've grown quite close to, just trying to talk to them about my situation and how they came to the conclusion as to when it was the right time," Smith said.

"After last year winning the Premiership I still felt good physically and mentally. I still thought my form was good enough to play in the NRL but after spending time with my family in Queensland I knew it was the right time to finish.

"It's a chance to enjoy the next phase in my life and hopefully it's still in rugby league in some capacity. In my head I probably made the decision a week ago but knowing the unveiling was today and I was going to be in Melbourne I thought it was a good time to announce my decision.

"I started here with Billy at Olympic [AAMI] Park in 2002 so this is where I wanted to end it. Given the amount of time I've spent here and what I've built with Billy, Cooper [Cronk], Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich ... guys who have put in effort to build the Storm as an organisation.

"As a rookie I always thought I wanted to be a one-club player. Sometimes those choices are taken away from you but thankfully I've been able to do that for 19 years here."

Storm head coach Craig Bellamy added: "I think he's the greatest player I've ever seen. For what he's done, no one has gone over 400 NRL games and 100 rep games, and the success as captain it's quite remarkable.

"I can't see it happening again. It's hard to describe his effect on our club and the game. The biggest thing is how long he's done it for. When he told me this morning I was always genuine in that I said last year he deserved the right to make a decision when he was ready.

"For me the most important thing was that Cameron and his family be happy and I stand by that.

"It would've been strange for me to watch him in another jumper but that's obviously not going to happen. At the same time I still would've been his number one supporter even if he was playing against us.

"Hopefully we can keep Cameron around the club. If we can get him to give advice to our ruck plays and dummy half, his leadership is unparalleled."

Wayne Bennett will not continue as coach of Queensland for the 2021 State of Origin series so he can focus on his job at South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

Bennett returned to lead the Maroons in October of last year, taking on the role after Kevin Walters had stepped down following his appointment at Brisbane Broncos. 

Queensland went on to win 2-1 - beating New South Wales 20-14 in the deciding game in Brisbane - but the search is now on for a new coach ahead of this year's series.

"We were really grateful that Wayne made himself available to help us out last year," Queensland Rugby League managing director Robert Moore said in a statement. 

"We understand the decision Wayne has made in his last year of his contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as he's eager to concentrate his efforts on them because they've been so close [to a premiership]," Moore said. 

"With Wayne's decision, we've now moved to a process to consider the next appointment and we anticipate that process will be completed early this year." 

The Origin games are scheduled to take place in June and July, having been shifted to after the NRL season last year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wayne Bennett hit back at Brad Fittler's claims Jai Arrow showed the injured James Tedesco a "lack of respect" after the Queensland Maroons defeated the New South Wales Blues to clinch the State of Origin Series.

The Maroons ran out 20-14 winners at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Wednesday to win game three and a secure a first series triumph since 2017.

Fittler's Blues were dealt a blow when captain Tedesco, whose earlier score had put them on the board, was concussed after taking a knee to the head from Josh Papalii, causing him to lose his grip on the ball.

Arrow, seemingly unaware of what had happened, was seen pushing Tedesco into the turf as he lay on the ground before the Blues skipper was taken off the field, prompting a backlash on social media.

Asked for his thoughts on the incident after the game, Fittler said: "A lot of lack of respect. But I'm sure he'd learn from that."

Winning Maroons coach Bennett defended his player, though, saying the speed of the game meant he did not know Tedesco had been hurt.

"That was in instinct, mate. That happened so quick and he didn't realise that Papalii had hit him with his knee," Bennett said. 

"As soon as he realised what he'd done, he stayed there. He never moved, he didn't run away and get a high-five or something.

"It happens so quickly out there and he just didn't know what had happened. I thought he reacted really good. 

"If you look at his head, he never even seen what happened. He was in there trying to make the tackle, he never saw the knee go into Tedesco's head.

"Brad's kidding himself, okay? There was no lack of respect there. Just watch it again."

Cameron Munster was in inspired form as the Queensland Maroons defeated the New South Wales Blues 20-14 to clinch State of Origin glory in Wednesday's game-three decider.

A full capacity crowd at Suncorp Stadium, the largest globally since the COVID-19 pandemic put restrictions on supporters worldwide, witnessed Queensland end the Blues' hopes of a three-peat.

Playmaker Munster and debutant Harry Grant particularly impressed for a Maroons side who have now won seven of the last eight Origin games at Suncorp including the past three.

Valentine Holmes, who moved to the wing for the decider, scored first after three minutes with a leaping finish in the left corner following a well-worked Queensland move.

A mistake from Corey Allan allowed James Tedesco to quickly level but the Blues were dealt a blow when their captain and try scorer left the field with an injury.

Queensland dominated the rest of the half but it took until the stroke of half-time to engineer a 12-6 lead when Munster's kick was finished by Edrick Lee.

Holmes squandered a couple of try-scoring opportunities as the Blues kept the scoreline in check, but he added a penalty before Grant marked a fine bow by going over.

In a frantic finish, Daniel Tupou's try kept NSW in the match before Allan's sin-binning for a professional foul on Josh Addo-Carr invited late Blues pressure, which the Maroons held firm against to earn coach Wayne Bennett a series win 17 years on from his last spell in charge.

An entertaining 2020 State of Origin series will reach a conclusion on Wednesday when the Queensland Maroons take on the New South Wales Blues. 

Queensland recorded a surprise 18-14 win in Adelaide to open the series, only to be brought back down to earth last week when NSW triumphed 34-10 in Sydney on the back of a man-of-the-match display by Nathan Cleary. 

That means the series is intriguingly poised at 1-1 ahead of Game III at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane. 

With the help of Opta statistics, we take a look at some of the key talking points ahead of the decider. 

Queensland have won the last five Game III deciders which have been played outside New South Wales. The most recent of those, in 2017, saw Valentine Holmes score a hat-trick as Cameron Smith was named man-of-the-match.

The Maroons have also won six of the last seven State of Origin matches at Suncorp Stadium, including the previous two at the venue despite trailing at half-time.

NSW, though, triumphed in the last two Origin series and are aiming to seal a third consecutive victory. If achieved, it would be their joint-longest winning run in the format, with NSW previously achieving a three-peat between 2003 and 2005 after their first such streak from 1992 to 1994.

The Maroons will have to improve defensively, having conceded 26 or more points in three of the last four State of Origin matches, three of which have been losses. They had only leaked that many points once in the 11 games prior.

Daly Cherry-Evans was man-of-the-match in Game I. He has 11 one-on-one tackles, the most of anyone in this series so far. Queensland players also come second and third in that ranking, thanks to the efforts of Dane Gagai (10) and Kurt Capewell (eight).

Phillip Sami has made a joint-series high two try saves for Queensland in this State of Origin campaign, level with Gagai (two) and as many as the entire New South Wales team combined (Tyson Frizell and Daniel Saifiti have one each).

Josh Addo-Carr has scored a series-leading four tries in 2020 and the New South Wales star needs one more to equal the record for the most in single edition. That is jointly held by Ryan Girdler and Lote Tuqiri, who had five each in the 2000 campaign.

Deciders played in Queensland have typically seen NSW start fast. They have led at half-time on nine previous occasions, going on to win in six of those fixtures (L3).

Having won last year's decider 26-20, New South Wales will be looking to claim back-to-back victories in Game III for only the second time in State of Origin history. 

They have only previously done so in 2004 and 2005. The 2019 decider saw them edge an entertaining encounter 26-20 courtesy of a last-gasp James Tedesco try in Sydney.

New South Wales' Tedesco has scored three tries in his last two appearances in Origin deciders. In those contests, he has also made four line breaks and 13 tackle breaks.

Nathan Cleary insists New South Wales have won nothing yet after he inspired his side to a 34-10 victory over Queensland on Wednesday to level the State of Origin series.

The Penrith Panthers halfback was named man of the match after leading the Blues to victory in Sydney with some outstanding kicking.

Cleary's place in the side had come under scrutiny in the build-up after he went into the contest with the record of being the first New South Wales half in history to go without a try assist or linebreak assist in his opening six Origin games.

However, the 22-year-old responded with some sublime playmaking, kicked four conversions out of six and sent over a late penalty to cap a commanding win.

His display led past Origins star Andrew Johns, who was one of those critics to call for his replacement this week, to describe Cleary's kicking performance as the finest by a Blues player in the history of the contest.

"I think we blocked that [talk] out pretty well this week," Cleary said afterwards.

"That's the pleasure of kind of being away in camp, surrounded by a great bunch of blokes, great coaching staff and just having to focus on ourselves.

"It's no different this week. We haven't done anything yet - we still have a game to win up in Queensland.

"We weren't happy with where we were finishing our sets down in Adelaide. That's what Origin football is about.

"When you have [Josh Addo-Carr] and that on the wings you can utilise it but, having said that, we just wanted to work together and to get to spots on the field where we thought we could get our best kicks off. I thought we did that really well."

Queensland had gone ahead through a stunning Xavier Coates try but were second best from then on, as Cody Walker, James Tedesco, Jack Wighton and Daniel Tupou all scored a try apiece while Addo-Carr got a double.

In his first game as captain, Tedesco was proud of the renewed efforts of his side after their 18-14 loss in the series opener in Adelaide.

"We think we were a bit complacent," he said. "We were really disappointed in that first game and we wanted to show more heart and pride in the jersey. I think we did that."

The decider takes place in Brisbane in a week's time.

New South Wales levelled the State of Origin series after a dominant 34-10 victory in game two on Wednesday.

The Maroons edged the opener in Adelaide last week with a four-point victory as they turned around a 10-0 half-time deficit.

It was the Blues who recorded a comeback in front of more than 36,000 fans in Syndey, though, as they overturned Xavier Coates' sublime opening try with six of their own, including a double from Josh Addo-Carr.

Some haphazard Queensland defending and imperious kicking from Nathan Cleary helped New South Wales to force a decider in Brisbane in a week's time.

Coates put Queensland in front with a quite spectacular score, leaping high to touch down in the corner under pressure with eight minutes on the clock.

The Blues were 12-4 up inside half an hour, though, Cody Walker going over before James Tedesco drove through a gap and over the line, with Cleary twice adding the extras.

The advantage was stretched before the interval when Addo-Carr skipped through in straightforward fashion after the Blues suddenly found themselves four-on-three from a 10-metre scrum.

New South Wales carried that momentum into the second half and cemented their advantage within three minutes of the restart, Jack Wighton squaring up his man before forcing his way over the try line after Queensland wilted against a series of drives.

The visiting defence was in complete disarray and Daniel Tupou got his first Origin try as the Blues again attacked with a man advantage following a scrum, although Cleary missed his first attempt with the boot when he clipped the post.

As frustrations built, scuffles began to break out and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Payne Haas were sent to the sin bin following a brawl.

Josh Papalii powered over to give Queensland a lifeline only for Addo-Carr to gather Walker's clever kick and score his eighth Origin try, making certain of a third game next week before Cleary's late penalty capped a resounding win.

AJ Brimson will not feature again in the 2020 State of Origin series, having suffered a foot injury after scoring on his Queensland debut.

Brimson helped turn the tide in Wednesday's 18-14 Game I win over New South Wales, scoring the Maroons' first points with a second-half try after the Blues had tallied a 10-point lead at the break.

The Gold Coast Titans fullback was among eight Queensland players making their bows, yet his involvement in the series is over.

"Scans confirmed a Lisfranc ligament injury, which will rule AJ out of the rest of the series," Maroons team doctor Matt Hislop said.

"A specialist surgeon has been consulted and initial advice is for him to remain in camp."

Brimson added: "I was stoked to make my Origin debut and to get the win was an incredible feeling.

"I've got great belief in the squad and we're really well-placed to go on and win the series."

There was better news on team-mate Kurt Capewell, another debutant whose unorthodox kick created Brimson's crucial try.

Capewell had been battling groin tightness prior to Wednesday's game, but Hislop said: "Kurt aggravated his symptoms during the game. However, his scans are reassuring.

"We anticipate he will respond to further treatment and be available for Game II."

NSW have their own injury problems, meanwhile, with Cameron Murray joining Brimson in being ruled out of the series.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs lock, who was part of last year's winning side, sustained a hamstring injury just five minutes after being introduced in the first half of Origin I.

Jack Wighton has a leg problem but is set to make Game II.

Daly Cherry-Evans hailed the impact of returning Queensland coach Wayne Bennett after he was named man of the match in the Maroons' Origin I win over New South Wales.

Wednesday's 2020 State of Origin opener - delayed until after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic - saw Queensland record a surprise victory, overturning a 10-point deficit to win 18-14 in Adelaide.

Manly Sea Eagles’ Cherry-Evans edged out impressive rookie Kurt Capewell for the MVP award after converting tries from Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates and Cameron Munster.

Queensland trailed 10-0 at half-time but ultimately prevailed with Bennett – who is being supported by Mal Meninga and Neil Henry - rewarded for his bold call to play eight debutants.

The Maroons are now well placed to prevent NSW from winning a third straight series.

"I never have been coached by Wayne before and he has a presence about him," said Maroons captain Cherry-Evans. 

"We are that lucky with the coaching staff we have got that they have coached a lot of big games.

"They definitely did a lot of the settling of the nerves during the week. It allowed me to just concentrate on being the halfback, which was good.

"Mal, I have been lucky enough to be coached by him and he definitely has a presence amongst him. 

"It is not unnerving or unsettling, but it makes you comfortable and sure of yourself. We had that. I could [feel their presence]."

Asked what Bennett had said to inspire a turnaround at half-time, Cherry-Evans said: "To be more direct. Once we got those messages and clarity, I thought that we found our groove."

Munster, meanwhile, felt the Maroons had provided the perfect answer to their critics.

"There is a lot of hunger in that group and no one gave us a chance," said Munster, who recently celebrated NRL Grand Final glory with Melbourne Storm.

"We just dug deep, just completing sets and kicking to the corners - that is what we did."

After Queensland had scored 18 unanswered points, Josh Addo-Carr crossed for his second try of the match with five minutes to go as NSW moved to within one score of victory.

Munster attempted to keep the young team calm, adding: "I was pretty much swearing, 'Boys, you cannot lose it'. 

"We needed to dig deep - the Blues are a great outfit and they can score all over the field. We just needed to get up."

Queensland overturned a first-half deficit to strike first in the 2020 State of Origin with an 18-14 defeat of New South Wales in Wednesday's series opener. 

The Maroons lost last year but seized the initiative as the latest edition - delayed until after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic - got under way with the first ever Origin match in Adelaide. 

An inexperienced line-up had to show plenty of spirit as a one-two punch from the Blues saw Damien Cook and Josh Addo-Carr cross in quick succession to claim a 10-0 lead at the interval. 

But Queensland stuck to their task and were good value for victory as an excellent second period saw Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates and Cameron Munster all on the scoresheet, with Addo-Carr's late second try unable to rescue a result before attention turns towards Sydney next week.

Cook's knock-on from the kick-off epitomised an untidy start as Addo-Carr was squeezed out in the corner at one end before Daly Cherry-Evans skewed a penalty wide in the absence of a regular Queensland kicker. 

The game remained scoreless until the 16th minute when Cook gathered his own kick and bundled over for a breakthrough Blues try against the run of play. 

They took control thereafter and a more accomplished move from left to right allowed Addo-Carr to brush off Brimson's attempted tackle and stretch their advantage. 

But the Maroons stayed in touch and two debutants combined for a response 10 minutes after half-time, Kurt Capewell's awkward kick bouncing kindly into the clutches of Brimson for his first Origin score.

And the game was soon turned on its head when Dane Gagai's powerful running created space for Coates - another man making his bow at this level - to dash in on the right, with the extras from Cherry-Evans securing a first Queensland lead. 

Determined not to cede control just as their rivals had, the Maroons kept the pressure on and were rewarded as Munster toed the ball away from a scrambling Nathan Cleary and held off Cook to score. 

The Blues found a new burst of life in the final 10 minutes and belatedly moved with some urgency to again find Addo-Carr, who was able to dot down. 

Felise Kaufusi headed for the sin bin with 13 seconds remaining as NSW attempted an improbable recovery, but the reigning champions were left with too much to do.

Greg Inglis said he turned down the opportunity to make his State of Origin return for Queensland this year.

Inglis retired from rugby league last year and ended his Origin career with the Maroons in 2018, however, the former Australia and Queensland star signed a one-year with Super League side Warrington Wolves for 2021.

Former Maroons head coach Kevin Walters previously talked up the possibility of an Inglis comeback, though he has since departed for Brisbane Broncos – replaced by legendary boss Wayne Bennett.

But Inglis – who made 32 appearances for Queensland between 2006 and 2018 – closed the door on Origin.

"I've had plenty of chats to Kevie about it [a comeback] throughout the year, but I made my mind up quite a long time ago," the 33-year-old told reporters on Tuesday.

"To be up for the Origin arena it is a lot mentally and physically, and I think it was in the best interests of me to say no and don’t put a burden on anyone else and to give the other players so they can showcase what they have on those big stages."

The 2020 State of Origin series between Queensland and New South Wales gets underway in Adelaide on November 4, before games in Sydney on November 11 and Brisbane on November 18.

New South Wales have won the past two Origin series, after Walters guided Queensland to back-to-back triumphs in 2016 and 2017.

NRL finalists Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers dominated the State of Origin squads as the selections were confirmed on Sunday.

Ryan Papenhuyzen capped a wonderful season with a man of the match display in Sunday's final, as the Storm saw off Penrith 26-20.

The full-back is one of seven Melbourne players who will feature in the Origin match between New South Wales and Queensland, with the final additions having been revealed.

Papenhuyzen and Josh Addo-Carr will deputise in the NSW camp, while their Storm team-mates Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Brenko Lee, Christian Welch, Felise Kaufusi and Cameron Munster will link up with Queensland's squad.

Six Penrith players will also take part, with Kurt Capewell named in the Maroons squad and Stephen Crichton, Liam Martin, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai and Isaah Yeo selected for New South Wales.

Papenhuyzen may not get in ahead of James Tedesco – who was the player of the series in 2019 – for the Blues, though Storm coach Craig Bellamy is sure the youngster can have a big impact on the squad.

"[Papenhuyzen] has really matured this year, I'm sure he'd be the first one to say he's had a lot of help off Billy [Slater] and he's been very grateful for that," Bellamy said. 

"He can play a few other places and he's tough as nails and he'll give you some X-factor for a couple of other positions as well so I'm sure Freddie will be looking at him pretty hard to play on the bench."

The three-match State of Origin series will take place throughout November. The Blues are the defending champions.

Australia coach Mal Meninga has been given permission to take up an assistant role under Queensland boss Wayne Bennett for this year's State of Origin series.

Meninga will step down from Kangaroos duties in the short term to be Bennett's assistant for the series against New South Wales, with the opening game to be played in Adelaide on November 4.

From 2006 to 2015, Meninga was Maroons coach, leading them to eight straight series wins and nine in 10.

"From my perspective, it's great to be involved, and to work under Wayne and the current batch of players is something that I'm really excited about," Meninga said.

"It's been a unique year, and with no Test matches, this position allows me to remain in touch with the latest trends in the game."

Queensland will be aiming to respond after back-to-back series losses to New South Wales.

Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'landys said the Kangaroos' situation amid the coronavirus pandemic meant it was possible for Meninga to take up the role with the Maroons despite being contracted as Australia coach until the end of 2021.

"This year is an exceptional year," V'landys said.

"Under normal circumstances you can't be head coach of the Kangaroos and be involved in an Origin squad. But given there are no Test matches because of COVID we have granted Mal permission to assist Queensland.

"Mal is an Origin legend and his presence in the series will add an additional layer of excitement for our fans and players."

Wayne Bennett has returned as Queensland head coach for the 2020 State of Origin series, replacing Kevin Walters.

Walters has given up the position to focus on his role as Brisbane Broncos boss following confirmation of his appointment on Wednesday.

Bennett, who is in charge of South Sydney Rabbitohs, has had three previous stints as Maroons coach – in 1986-88, 1998 and 2001-03.

"I love coaching Queensland and I'm extremely humbled to be invited to coach this team again, particularly in light of the challenging circumstances with Kevin moving on to coach the Broncos," the former Australia and England coach said.

"I'm very proud and pleased that I'm still able to do it. State of Origin means so much to the people of Queensland.

"It's been a difficult year for many people and I just want to give something back if I can."

The Maroons are coming off back-to-back series losses to New South Wales, while game one in 2020 is on November 4.

Queensland Rugby League (QRL) managing director Robert Moore said Bennett's experience would be crucial.

"Our people involved in the process to appoint the new coach all viewed Wayne as the right person when we took into consideration the unique circumstances we are now faced with," he said.

"There's no doubt next month's series will present a range of new challenges due to the scheduling change and biosecurity protocols.

"Wayne has the necessary experience and he knows what it takes to win big games at representative level, for both state and country."

Bennett is due to coach the Rabbitohs until the end of 2021, when assistant Jason Demetriou will take his place.

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