GRAND FINAL DAY LOCKED IN | Three big fixtures next Sunday at Sydney's ANZ Stadium! Burleigh and Ill...
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They were both born on the same day, they both had stunning National Rugby League debut seasons last year and they are both widely regarded as two of the most exciting young talents in the game.
They now have something else in common; they will both represent Queensland in this year?s State of Origin series starting next week in Sydney.
After a dominant performance in game three of last year?s Origin series, Smith?s selection is no surprise but it was the naming of Slater that has the two 20-year-old?s buzzing.
?It?s a bit of a shock because I was expecting the call to say I wasn?t in the side, so it?s very pleasing,? said Slater, the Storm?s leading try-scorer last year.
?It?s been in the back of my mind for a little while but it?s something you don?t really expect until you actually make the side.
?It has come really quickly, it feels like just yesterday I was trying to stay in Melbourne and make the top 25 for the Storm and then the next minute you?re named in the 17-man Origin side.
?It?s probably been more a dream to play for Queensland than it is a goal. I?ve only played 30-odd first-grade games and you don?t expect to jump straight into the Origin scene.?
Slayer has been named on the wing for the Maroons, while Penrith?s Rhys Wesser has been named at fullback, the position Slater has spectacularly taken over at the Storm since debuting in Round 1 last season.
?I?ve played on the wing a little bit before and it?s obviously a bit different to fullback, but I?ll play a similar sort of role unless Michael Hagan wants me to take on something quite different,? Slater added.
?Give me an Origin jersey and I?ll play anywhere.?
Smith?s performance against NSW in Origin 3 last year won him the players? player award and he was instrumental in the Storm reaching the finals in 2003.
His man-of?the-match effort in the Storm?s 20-point win over the Eels at Parramatta Stadium yesterday further underlined the rare form he has been enjoying this year.
?Ever since the Origin game last season I?ve always wanted to play again and thankfully I?ve been given the opportunity again this year,? Smith said.
?The way the club has been playing this year, disregarding a couple of bad weeks, has definitely helped Billy and myself make the Queensland team.
?That (Eels) game was one of the better games I?ve had this year, I?ve just been trying to improve each week and trying to remain consistent and that?s what the selectors look for.?
Smith says he is pleased to see his Storm teammate called into the QLD side after Slater came close to securing an Origin debut last year.
?I remember last year when he (Slater) was playing outstanding footy, he was hoping to get a jersey for that last game and when he missed out he was really disappointed,? Smith said.
?It?s good to see he?s got a start this year, he has done a lot of work on his ball handling and he?s worked really hard in the gym to bulk up, I?ve no doubt he?ll go really well.?
Both players are predicting this year?s series to be closely fought, with both sides suffering from a long list of injuries.
?I reckon it will be a very tough series, both teams have got a lot of injuries and there?s going to be a lot of youth on both sides,? Smith explained.
Slater agrees: ?We are most probably going to be the underdogs again and I think that sits with Queensland pretty well. But once you are out there I don?t think that really matters because you?re playing for the 16 other blokes on the field.?
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