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Fittler's unexpected reaction to Smith retirement

Wide World of Sports logo Wide World of Sports 16/05/2018 Sacha Mirzabegian

NSW coach Brad Fittler says the task of winning the 2018 State of Origin series has become harder, following the retirement of Cameron Smith from representative football.

Smith announced his immediate retirement from representative football, bringing down the curtain on a glittering career that included 56 Tests and 42 State of Origin games.

Oddly enough, Fittler was in Melbourne to discuss his Origin plans with Storm coach Craig Bellamy when he found out about Smith’s retirement.

The Blues coach spotted Maroons coach Kevin Walters at Storm training but still was oblivious to Smith’s decision to call time.

“I was walking up to watch a bit of training, and I’ve come back and looked, ‘Is that Kevin Walters?’ Then Cameron addressed his team and we didn’t really know what was going on,” said Fittler.

The new Blues coach said Bellamy was acting coy about what sort of announcement Smith was going to make but eventually found out about the hooker’s retirement while having coffee with the Storm mentor.

Fittler was honest when asked what his first reaction was to the news that the Maroons legend wouldn’t be in the Queensland side to face the Blues in Origin I in three weeks.

“The first thing wasn’t relief, the first thing was this is harder,” Fittler revealed.

“It all changes. Most of your planning and your mindset is around beating a team with Cameron Smith in it. And most of your thought process goes into nullifying what he does.”

© Getty Images Fittler said the Blues mission becomes more difficult because Smith’s replacement has been waiting for their chance for a long time and they won’t die wondering.

“Whether it’s Andrew McCullough, Granville or Jake Friend. You’ve got someone who’s wanted to do this for a long, long time. But I’m thinking Andrew McCollough. That’s my initial thought.”

The Blues mentor admitted expectations for the Blues to win had lifted ever since Smith announced he wouldn’t be playing, but he said he’ll urge his players to concentrate on the task at hand.

“The team we’re going to pick is going to be team that isn’t focused on whether Cameron Smith is playing or not. It’s going to be on winning a series and hopefully changing a lot of opinions of NSW fans.”

Fittler will name his side in less than two weeks with both sides uncertain about who they will play at the hooker position.

While Nathan Peats is the NSW incumbent, there’s word the likes of Cameron McInnes, Damien Cook and Api Koroisau are all in contention to be selected for the hooking role.

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