Thurston pays tribute to Qld mate Smith

Smith, Thurston and Slater Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Johnathan Thurston opened a bottle of wine when the call from Cameron Smith came through to inform him he was retiring from representative rugby league.

The North Queensland legend has given a glowing tribute to his fellow Queensland great after Smith's decision to focus solely on his club football.

The two might be rivals in the NRL with the Cowboys and Melbourne but they have a lifelong friendship after creating a State of Origin dynasty for the Maroons, who have won 11 of the past 12 series.

Thurston retired from representative duties himself last year to focus on his last season with North Queensland and laughed off suggestions he could make a comeback.

Smith's surprise decision caught him off-guard, but he didn't attempt to talk him out of it.

Instead, they reminisced on an unforgettable era for Queensland.

"I got a bottle of nice red (wine) out of my cupboard, cracked it open and had a couple of drinks on the phone (speaking to Smith)," Thurston said on Wednesday.

"He's been a big part of my life and our families' lives as well.

"The memories we've shared on and off the field are quite special.

"I totally understand where he is coming from (by retiring).

"The amount of games he has played and the position he has played is a testament to the person he is and the character he is."

While the absences of Smith, Thurston and Cooper Cronk will leave a gaping hole in Queensland's squad, the 35-year-old has confidence in coach Kevin Walters.

Thurston has backed Brisbane's Andrew McCullough to replace Smith at hooker for the Maroons ahead of his Cowboys teammate Jake Granville.