Captain planning to stick around
CAMERON Smith will play his 43rd Test and 20th as Australian captain on Friday night with no thoughts of his representative career coming to an end.
As players' thoughts turned to long-serving centre Justin Hodges, who will miss out on a farewell Test in the green-and-gold against the Kiwis in Brisbane, after announcing he would step down from representative football at the end of the season, Smith said his desire to play and lead his country had never been stronger.
Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens has come under pressure to introduce new blood to the Australian side, with players including Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston at the back end of their magnificent careers.
But Smith, 31, said none of the senior players would be handing in their Australian jumpers without a fight before the next World Cup in 2017.
"We all can't go on forever. You ask anyone and they want to play on for as long as they can," Smith told reporters at the Kangaroos' Brisbane training base.
"But there's going to be a time where we are all going to have to finish off one way or another.
"We got a taste during the Four Nations of the young players that we have coming through the ranks, but I don't think anyone will be handing their jerseys over just yet. The guys here all want to play for Australia."
Smith and Slater, who face a fitness test on his injured left shoulder today, were both highly complimentary to Hodges' contribution to Australia in a long career punctured by knee and hamstring injuries.
"Everyone knows he's a fantastic player and that he has always done well at representative level. I think it's just his (lack of) minutes on the park this year that has made it hard for him to be picked," Smith said. "I love having him in my representative team and hopefully he's fit for Queensland."
Slater said it was a mark of Hodges' standing that he telephoned Will Chambers, the player who took his Test jumper, to congratulate him and wish well in his Test debut.
"Justin's career in the green and gold has been tremendous," the Storm fullback said.
"For him to congratulate the person who has taken his Test jersey says a lot about the bloke."
Slater, a veteran of 25 Tests, has not played since copping a crunching tackle from Warriors winger Manu Vatuvei in round five.
If he is ruled out, Greg Inglis is likely to switch to fullback with Roosters centre and Michael Jennings to come into the team.