Shake-up for Slater’s Origin coaching staff with Smith saying sayonara to Maroons role
Matt Ballin will replace Cameron Smith on the Queensland coaching staff this State of Origin series.
An assistant coach at Brisbane since late 2021, Ballin joins Josh Hannay and Jonathan Thurston as an assistant to Billy Slater, who is preparing for his third series in charge.
Ballin has previously worked with the Maroons on game day under Slater and coached the state’s Under-19s team last year.
Smith, a veteran of 42 Origin games and one of the state’s greatest players, was an assistant for both of the Maroons’ series victories under Slater.
He will continue to coach at grassroots level alongside his media duties.
“I’m very grateful to Billy and the QRL for the opportunity to be a part of the Queensland coaching team,” Smith said.
“It’s been a fantastic two series working with quality players. They’re quality people to work with and they’ve certainly helped me as a rookie assistant coach.
“I was lucky enough to represent the jersey many times but to experience it from a different lens as a coach, and being able to watch this new generation play the way they did and represent the state in the manner in which they did, was highly rewarding.
“This year I’ve decided to coach at grassroots level at the Currumbin Eagles,” he added.
“I feel it’s really important to get back to grassroots level because that’s where our next generation of players come from and I remember all the way back to my junior days playing at Logan Brothers, and just how important coaching is at that level.”
Slater paid tribute to the outgoing Smith, with whom he won two NRL premierships at Melbourne.
“I don’t know if there’s anyone who has contributed more to the Queensland Origin team than Cam Smith,” Slater said.
“I’m extremely grateful for his contribution over the last two series. He’s done an incredible job which I’ve seen first hand inside the camp with all the players and coaching staff.”
The 40-year-old Ballin played his only Origin game for Queensland in 2010 as a replacement for the injured Smith, who had a mortgage on the Maroons’ hooker spot for much of Ballin’s career.
Ballin played 217 of his 220 NRL games for Manly, starting at hooker in the 2008 and 2011 premiership victories, and served on the club’s coaching staff for three years after his retirement.
“I’ve seen a whole heap of value to what Matt brings to our game-day performance,” Slater said.
“I’m really excited to work alongside him and continue to help our players prepare to the best of their ability.”