WHILE debate raged about whether Danny Buderus, Michael Ennis or Robbie Farah should wear the NSW hooker jersey, Cameron Smith had already made up his mind.
The field narrowed when Buderus was scratched with an achilles injury. Regardless, Smith still would not have picked him.
It came down to the incumbent Ennis and the twice-tried Farah.
Hearing that NSW coach Ricky Stuart was adopting a more aggressive approach this year, Smith knew in his own mind there was only one option - Farah.
“I think he is the better No 9, at least from an attacking point of view,” said Smith, who has been the Queensland No 9 a total of 24 times. "He played there a couple of years ago so he has a bit more of an understanding on what to do during the week’s preparation and how to approach the game.
“It won’t be anything new to him. He’ll slip right back in, especially the way Rick is thinking.”
Stuart’s Origin campaign this season is built on the Blues being able to score points, rather than just trying to stop Queensland from crossing the line.
Smith said under that war plan, Farah would be the first one to open fire as he would touch the ball most often.
“Robbie builds his game around his attack,” said the Melbourne, Australian and now Queensland captain. "With Robbie he’s got so many options in his game. There’s his kicking game - he uses a lot of subtle kicks - then he has a smart passing game and he can run himself, too.
“We have to minimise his impact around the middle.”
Being brutally honest, Farah presented Queensland with more headaches than Ennis, who played the past seven Origin games.
“Mick builds his game around his defence and being really aggressive, getting up into our line and creating havoc there,” Smith said. “Obviously Rick wants something slightly different this time.”
Smith has heard the criticisms of Farah, chief of which has been that his Wests Tigers’ flamboyant style of game doesn’t suit Origin’s grinding mode. He thinks the judgments have been unfounded.
“He’s a great player, Robbie and he’s been in top form for his club and in the City-Country game,” Smith said, adding he wished the sceptics had not been so vocal.
“He’s copped a bit of flak down there about the way he plays his footy. That’s not going to help us any because I know he’ll be going out there to try to prove those people wrong.”
Smith has toured in two Kangaroos sides with Farah but didn’t get any extra insight on the Tigers rake that he might be able to exploit on Wednesday night at Etihad Stadium.
“You get to train a lot together but you don’t really learn any secrets about each other,” he said. "I’ve seen plenty of tape on Robbie over the years. So I know the sort of work he’s going to be doing with the ball.
“I know he’ll test out our big boys. They’re going to have to be ready in the middle.”