NRL 11 months ago

Kangaroos jersey usurps Origin: Smith

  • Kangaroos jersey usurps Origin: Smith

    PERTH, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 15: Cameron Smith of Australia walks a lap of honour with the trophy after winning the International Rugby League Test match between the Australian Kangaroos and the New Zealand Kiwis at nib Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith may be one of the most successful State of Origin players of all time, but he insists donning the green and gold must go back to being the pinnacle of the game in Australia .

Smith, who is embarking on his fourth tour of the UK in the upcoming Four Nations, said he's as enthusiastic as he was on his first in 2009, but concerned the Origin juggernaut now dwarfs the importance of the international game.

"We want the Kangaroos to go back to being the No.1 rugby league team in our country," Smith told AAP at the tournament launch at Liverpool's Anfield.

"At the moment it's not. State of Origin is bigger than the international team which it shouldn't be.

"It's something Mal (Meninga) has spoken about a lot and he has really good ideas around our international program and hopefully over the next few years they'll come to fruition."

Smith concedes it will be impossible to reduce the importance of Origin given that it dominates talk and debate from the start of the season in March until the conclusion of game three in July.

However, he believes that changing the mindsets of young players is the key to making the public fall back in love with the international game.

"I enjoy playing against England in England, watching those games as a kid is what made me want to play rugby league," he said.

"But most young players today aspire to play for NSW or Queensland and not so much the Kangaroos.

"I do think once the attitudes of players towards international footy starts to change you will see the public come back on board."

Meninga, who is revered in the north of England due to his exploits in six Ashes series against Great Britain and a highly successful season with St Helens in 1984, believes it's important to keep the international game alive.

"You're never going to be able to go back to the three-month tours we embarked on where you played every team and three Tests," Meninga told AAP.

"But there's no reason why we can't play midweek games against representative sides from Yorkshire and Lancashire and then have a three-match series.

"Teams coming to Australia to play could do the same. It's something that could be in the offing and hopefully it can happen."

Australia open their tournament on Friday (Saturday 6am AEDT) in Hull against Scotland with the hosts then taking on David Kidwell's Kiwis in Huddersfield (Sunday, 1230am AEDT).

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