Cameron Smith is now the greatest rugby league player of all time
WORDS BY JOSHUA WOOLLER
You won’t find the same highlight reels for Cameron Smith as you will for Darren Lockyer, Andrew Johns or even Billy Slater. Yet, this Saturday Cameron Smith will walk out into an NRL game for the 356th time in his career and become the most capped player of all time.
Smith has also played the most State of Origin games in history, surpassing Lockyer earlier this year. With a World Cup on the horizon, and the likelihood that Smith will play on in 2019, it would seem he will also pass Lockyer’s all time Test caps.
When we think of the greatest moments in rugby league history, Smith won’t feature. You won’t find a chip and chase try like Billy Slater in Origin 2004, or an Andrew John’s highlight compilation. Instead, to get a sense of Smith’s greatness you need to go back to Round 4 of this year. Melbourne travelled down to Leichhardt to face a West Tigers outfit. The Tigers led 14-0 coming to the end of the second half. Step up Cameron Smith. Smith from dummy half, kicks a 40/20 against the run of play, setting up a Storm try. The Storm would go on to win 22-14.
Smith’s status as rugby league’s greatest ever player lies in his composure. He consistently will make over 40 tackles a game, but will take the right option “99.9% of the time” according to fellow rugby league immortal Andrew Johns. Queensland teammate described playing with Smith as like having “another coach on the field”. You only have to think of many of the greatest moments in rugby league to get a sense of what makes Smith the player he is. Origin game 1, 2015, New South Wales and Queensland are drawn at 10 a piece. Of course, while teammate Cooper Cronk will get the credit for kicking the match winning field goal to send Queensland home 11-10 victors, it is Cameron Smith that set up every play beforehand and delivered the pass to Cronk. And that is how Smith plays, he is fairly anonymous, but you can almost be assured that every Storm, Queensland or Australian try will have some of Smith’s planning behind it.
For the unacquainted with rugby league, Smith’s physique doesn’t seem to resemble a footy player. He looks more like an accountant wearing a jersey. Despite this, Smith’s durability has become another hallmark of his game. Very rarely will not play 80 minutes for club, state or country. And in spite of his workload, Smith’s teammates have full confidence in their captain. Evidenced by the fact that in 2013, when coach Craig Bellamy was considering leaving the club, Cameron Smith was backed to become the first captain/coach in two decades. While Bellamy ultimately decided to stay, Smith in the intervening years has cemented himself in the history books of the game.
To date, Smith has won the Dally M Medal, the Golden Boot Award, he has lifted the Provan-Summons trophy three times, has lifted the State of Origin Shield five times, has won a World Cup and providing the Dally M awards go ahead this year, will win the NRL’s top gong once again.
There has never been a player as composed as Cameron Smith, there may never be again. Anything short of a premiership this October would be an injustice for Smith and the Melbourne Storm.