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Smith backs Meninga's league influence

Steve Jancetic 12/07/2011 08:45:15 PM Comments (0)

Queensland captain-in-waiting Cameron Smith claims Maroons' State of Origin coach Mal Meninga had every right to retaliate following attempts to downplay his influence in the side's six straight series wins.

Smith has leapt to defence of the Origin legend by claiming he had played an integral part in the team's winning run, after suggestions during the Origin campaign that he was coach in name only.

A newspaper article intimated assistant coach Michael Hagan and Neil Henry were the real architects of the unparalleled run of success.

Meninga hit back in spectacular fashion in a weekend column when he took aim at those "branding me a dispensable commodity".

Smith supports Meninga's emotional outburst, refuting claims he was just a figurehead.

"I think he would have been pretty upset with that, as any coach of a rugby league side would be," Smith told Sky Sports Radio.

"Saying he doesn't contribute much to our team and guys like Neil Henry and Michael Hagan are coaching ... to set the record straight, that's as far away from the truth as you can get.

"What you see at halftime is 'Hages' - what used to be Neil Henry - come in and have a chat at halftime about some of the stats we look at.

"Mal goes around and talks to individuals just about the way he thinks they're going.

"He usually finishes off with his talk before we run back out.

"He's the one who gets us ready before the match."

Smith said Meninga's influence goes well beyond drawing up game plans.

"It's a lot to do with how he's been able to prepare us mentally for these games and get us believing in each other.

"You're not going to get a more experienced guy at this level."

There could yet be more fallout from Meninga's explosive column with some officials, including NRL match review committee chairman Greg McCallum, exploring the possibility of suing the former Test captain.

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