Cameron Smith singles out David Fifita detail after Billy Slater cops backlash over Origin snub

The Maroons legend has weighed-in on the State of Origin drama.

Maroons legend Cameron Smith has defended coach Billy Slater's decision to snub in-form forward David Fifita from the Queensland squad for the State of Origin decider against the Blues. Slater was expected to select rampaging NRL second-rower Fifita in his Origin Game 3 squad after the Blues humiliated the Maroons in Game 2.

Michael Maguire's men rolled through the middle of the park with ease, before blitzing the Maroons on the edges with their speed. The Maroons were defeated 38-18 with coach Slater called to make a number of changes for Game 3 to match the speed and muscle of the Blues.

Billy Slater (pictured left) has found support in Maroons legend Cameron Smith (pictured right) over his selections for the Queensland squad. (Getty Images)
Billy Slater (pictured left) has found support in Maroons legend Cameron Smith (pictured right) over his selections for the Queensland squad. (Getty Images)

One major call expected was bringing in Fifita to either start or add X-factor off the bench. However, Slater opted to completely snub the second-rower and prompted Kurt Capewell to the starting team.

Slater was forced to defend his call on Monday and claimed Fifita hadn't reached the heights he set himself in 2023. “But we feel that the 17 players that have been chosen are the 17 players that have earned the opportunity to be here,” Slater said in the press conference.

“All Queenslanders are considered and Dave is a name that has been in the conversation for all games. "He started the season a bit behind the eight-ball with a pec injury, didn’t have a great pre-season and he’s still working back to the standard that he created for himself last year. I’m sure he’d be the first to admit that.”

Slater has come under pressure for his comments with many feeling Fifita's numbers stack up against any second-rower in the NRL right now. However, Slater has found the backing of former teammate Smith.

The Maroons legend was a master at reading the game. And he believes Slater has selected Capewell in the starting 13 to make the little plays that many fans don't notice. He backed Slater's call and said he feels Capewell has the Origin mentality. "I think Billy has spoken about the reasons as to why Fifita is not in the side," Smith said on SEN Radio.

"He had some standards about him last year, that Billy doesn't quite feel he has reached this year. A lot of the things that stand out for David Fifita's game is his barnstorming runs and the tackle breaks. But when you are a coach of the Queensland Origin side, you look further past all those good runs and the things that make the highlight reel.

"It's a lot of stuff that happens away from the ball. Obviously Billy feels as though Kurt Capewell is a much better option to play in that back-row role. A guy that I think you can definitely rely on to make those plays away from the football that he needs him to do. Particularly at that level." Smith feels the 'small plays' that many supporters miss are the reasons why Slater has opted to choose the likes of Capewell over Fifita. "I am guessing that is the reason why Billy has opted for Capewell instead of Fifita," Smith said.

David Fifita during a game.
David Fifita (pictured) was not selected for the Maroons under coach Billy Slater.

Since selecting the team, Slater has also come under pressure for his decision to cancel a media appearance on Monday. Slater did speak to media during a press conference, where he described the backlash against the Maroons as "unfair". He pointed out that Queensland have always been generous in providing media and fans with access to the players and explained that the late arrivals of several players to Maroons camp ultimately forced their hand.


The coach denied that cancelling Monday's media event had anything to do with his side's performance in the Game 2 thrashing by the Blues. “No, absolutely not. Absolutely not,” Slater said when asked if the media commitments were a distraction for his stars. “Players talking to media was certainly not a factor in the performance from Game 2. That’s the first time I’ve thought of that when you’ve asked that question.”