Cooper Cronk ended his representative career after Australia's win in the World Cup final
Cooper Cronk ended his representative career after Australia's win in the World Cup final DAN PELED

Maroons spine not smashed

QUEENSLAND fans can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their champion spine won't be completely ripped away in 2018.

The representative retirements of Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk will leave huge holes but the Maroons' 34-year-old hooker Cameron Smith and fullback Billy Slater are certainties to go around again.

While Slater has more than likely played his last game in green and gold, confirming after the Kangaroos' tense 6-0 World Cup final win over England that he was "happy to pass on” the Australian No.1 jersey, he was adamant he still had one good Origin series left in him.

"I'll be playing Origin next year as long as I get picked,” Slater said.

"More than likely I'll be retiring at the end of next year.

"But whether that includes the one-off Test or not, I'm pretty content with what I've achieved in the green and gold and I'm happy to pass it on but I haven't 100 per cent made a decision just yet.”

In the mix to replace Cronk as playmaker are Michael Morgan, Cameron Munster, Ben Hunt, Daly Cherry-Evans, Anthony Milford and Ashley Taylor.

Smith has said throughout the World Cup that he still has a hunger to play at all levels and would not be giving up his representative jerseys just yet.

Smith and Slater's continued presence will give Queensland great confidence that their seemingly unshakeable dynasty can see off another staunch challenge in 2018, with NSW to get a makeover under new coach Brad Fittler.

Slater said it wouldn't be long until the Maroons found their next great half.

"Naturally it's going to be different. But before Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston, there were other guys - Darren Lockyer and Alfie Langer. Eras keep rolling,” Slater said.

"The evolution of Queensland rugby league players and Australian rugby league players will come through.”