Three horse race for Qld's rugby league hooker role

Cameron Smith's representative retirement not only signifies the changing of the guard for Queensland, it heralds a whole new era for State of Origin.

PROBLEMS: Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters.

PROBLEMS: Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters.

The Maroons and NSW will both make massive changes to their line ups for next month's series opener in Melbourne.

With Smith, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston all electing to concentrate on club footy, the Maroons have lost 101 Origin games worth of experience in one fell swoop.

From their side which played game one last year, a further nine players are either injured (Matt Gillett, Josh McGuire), retired (Nate Myles) or have been dropped (Corey Oates, Anthony Milford, Sam Thaiday, Aidan Guerra, Justin O'Neill and Jacob Lillyman).

It's a similar situation for NSW, with Fittler expected to ring in massive changes as he seeks to wipe away a decade-plus of heartache for the Blues.

It's believed he's told those around him he's looking at the likes of centre Latrell Mitchell, halfback Mitchell Moses and winger Nick Cotric for selection.

Smith's shock decision to stand down from state and national duties raises numerous questions.

For starters, who will wear the No.9 for Queensland?

It's a three-horse race with Brisbane's Andrew McCullough out in front of Jake Friend and Jake Granville.

Friend was part of Australia's World Cup campaign last year but has struggled with a sternum injury this year.

Granville's form has mirrored that of struggling North Queensland.

And who will captain the Maroons?

Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Matt Scott were mentioned as options by coach Kevin Walters.

South Sydney skipper Inglis seems the leading candidate with the club form of Boyd a real concern.

"Greg's been unbelievable this year with his leadership. He's grown week-in and week-out," Inglis' South Sydney teammate Sam Burgess said.

"They're big shoes to fill and if anyone could do it, I'd back Greg to be the man."

With Thurston also bowing out of representative footy, it also leaves the Maroons without an established goal-kicker, the importance of which can't be overstated.

Over the last 12 years, Queensland have on seven occasions won games by two points or less.

Cameron Munster and Valentine Holmes are both part-time kickers for their clubs.

Daly Cherry-Evans is a reliable kicker, however he is long odds to make the side.

Youngster Kalyn Ponga has kicked for Newcastle this year, though his selection would require Walters to drop one of his outside backs.

"Kalyn's one who's well in contention for a position in game one because he's hard to ignore," coach Kevin Walters said.

AAP