Could Smith play 400 games?
Only three players in 110 years of first-grade football have played 350 games.
Melbourne Storm skipper Cameron Smith joined the illustrious group on Saturday afternoon. After featuring with a peerless display in Melbourne's big 40-6 defeat of Manly, talk turned to a chance of 400.
Could he achieve such a feat – and does he want to?
“I’ve heard a couple of people talk about the 400 mark,” Smith said.
“For me, I’m just enjoying playing at the moment. I’ve got another season to run here at Melbourne. Touch wood I stay healthy and can play as many games as I can.
“If I’m able to reach 400, that’s great. It’s not something I’m looking at trying to achieve. I want to play the very best I can this season for the club.
“But 400 – I won’t lie to you. That would be quite special and nice to achieve. It’s quite a long way away.”
Smith still had time to take in the occasion during the game and ran out with his three children.
“I took a moment before kick-off to have a look around and soak up the atmosphere,” Smith said.
“It’s hard to take in the whole week and the milestone of the 350 because my job was to go out and play well today, and get my job done for my teammates and the coaches.
“It’s nice we ended up putting up a pretty good performance and a strong win against quality opposition. It’s been a fantastic week for myself; celebrating the 350 and victory tonight, then back to business tomorrow.”
The Melbourne hooker showed his full range of attacking skills against Manly and provided four try assists. The highlight was a deft grubber that fell perfectly into his old mate Cooper Cronk’s hands for a try.
“It was really nice to play alongside Cooper. It would have been great to play with Billy [Slater] as well.
“Everyone knows about what Cooper, Billy and I have built over a long period of time. To be able to play in milestone matches and in significant game together does mean a lot.
“Cooper and I have been playing footy together since we were 17 years of age. Both were signed to Melbourne at the same time as kids looking for an opportunity to play first grade. To be able to play in such a big game together and combine for a couple of moments for the team was really nice, so I guess during the match being able to soak up what we were doing together was really nice.”
What’s he put his longevity down to? After all, he’s the only forward in history to reach the 350-game mark.
“It’s got to be a mixture of luck and hard work,” Smith said.
“I’d like to think I’ve given myself an opportunity to stay healthy and have my body prepared physically for every game. As my career has gone on, I’ve understood how to get myself around the park, try to be as smart as I can with managing the game and managing myself.
“There’s no real secret to it. Just tried to work extremely hard on the training paddock to make sure I’m physically fit and mentally prepared for hard work to keep going.
“That’s really been something I’ve tried to put a fair bit of pride to is my resilience – something that Craig has brought to not only myself, but this club when he joined back in 2003. That’s got a huge part of why I’ve been able to achieve 350 games.
“The times when you don’t feel up to playing, or being out in the middle standing in front of big blokes, you just grit your teeth and get your job done.”