'It's finished now' - Queensland's State of Origin dominance over, says Wayne Bennett

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Wayne Bennett says Queensland coach Kevin Walters must discover the state's new breed of stars to ensure the next cycle of Maroons dominance.

Jonathan Thurston and Cameron Smith of Queensland with the trophy after they won the State of Origin rugby league game three decider, Queensland v New South Wales, Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia. 12 July 2017. Copyright Image: Tertius Pickard / www.photosport.nz

Johnathan Thurston and Cameron Smith of Queensland with the trophy after they won the State of Origin rugby league game three decider at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane in 2017.

Source: Photosport

In an era-defining selection call, Bennett handed a raw Smith an Origin debut in the final game of the 2003 series before quitting as Queensland coach.

The Maroons have gone on to win 11 of the next 12 series, with Smith playing in all but one of those games.

His shock representative retirement this week to join good mates Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston on the sidelines has installed NSW as firm favourites when the series begins in Melbourne on June 6.

While conceding Walters had a mountain to climb, Bennett said it was nothing he hadn't seen before.

"It'll be a real challenge for Kev, a challenge for the whole team," the Brisbane coach said.

"Of all the great (Origin) teams ever picked they'll (Thurston, Smith and Cronk) be in the grand final of the selection group .... but it does go in cycles, we had a wonderful cycle and it's finished now.

"It's just a challenge to find the players and make it happen again."

Endorsing Broncos hooker Andrew McCullough as Smith's replacement, Bennett recalled the assurity of the young Smith that earned him an Origin cap.

"I saw it when I tried to recruit him to come here as a young fella; he had a disposition, calmness and confidence and I had no hesitation bringing him into the team," Bennett said.

"We'd lost those two games (in the series); everyone was calling for a lot of change, but I just made one to bring him in and we won that game.

"He's (McCullough) very, very good, been a wonderful player at this club and I hope he gets his opportunity."

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