Smith backs Melbourne's origin
All smiles: Cameron Smith is happy to play state-of-origin matches in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images
QUEENSLAND'S captain-in-waiting Cameron Smith has hit back at Ricky Stuart's complaints about the state-of-origin opener being played in Melbourne.
New South Wales coach Stuart went on the offensive last week and slammed the decision to deny his side two home games this year as they look to end a run of six successive series wins by Mal Meninga's Maroons.
Smith said he understood why Stuart was upset at losing a home game, but said it was important for the game to continue its growth outside NSW and Queensland and give other states the chance to watch some of the world's best players in action.
''I am sure Mal would have said the same thing as Sticky [Stuart] if we'd lost one of our home games,'' Smith said in Sydney yesterday.
''I think it's great that they are taking the game to Melbourne. It's an area where we are still trying to grow.
''We've had a lot more support than we've ever had for rugby league down there and it's nice we're trying to expand the game.''
Queensland won the last meeting between the sides in Melbourne in 2009, and also prevailed when the series decider took place at Etihad Stadium in 2006.
With the Storm's superstar trio of Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk in their side, Stuart believes the Maroons earn the local support.
Smith, who's almost certain to be named Queensland captain following Darren Lockyer's retirement, denied this was the case, and hoped the Victorian government would be successful in its quest to renew the contract to play in Melbourne every three years.
A bid will be tabled to the ARL Commission later this year, with Auckland also keen take a game.
''I know a lot of people come down from New South Wales to watch the game in Melbourne and make a week of it, so they do get good support down there,'' Smith said.
''I understand people's feeling that it's tribal and it's all about Queensland and New South Wales, but, if we're doing it on a three-year rotation, then I can't see too many issues.
''The last time we played in Melbourne, it was a Queensland home game, and we gave it up and I didn't have a drama with that.''