Conversation behind Smith's Storm decision
Storm skipper Cameron Smith is the undisputed face of the game and will go down as one of the greatest players to have ever pulled on the boots, and while his contributions in Melbourne are endless, it turns out his wife, Barbara, produced the biggest play in the club's history when she convinced her husband to ignore a lucrative offer from the Broncos to stay in the Victorian capital.
Smith will pass close friend Darren Lockyer when he leads the Storm onto AAMI Park for a record-breaking 356th NRL appearance against the Eels on Saturday afternoon, but things could have been very different had he accepted a mouth-watering deal to head back home to Brisbane in 2015.
It was a brutal call for a man who has been largely responsible for building rugby league's profile in AFL heartland, made tougher by the conversation he had with Storm coach Craig Bellamy who was heartbroken but accepted his star hooker's decision.
"I'd never seen an offer from both clubs at the time; it was just me making a decision in my head first," Smith said of his decision.
"I think he (Bellamy) was quite shocked at first. I don't think he really thought that was going to be my sort of thoughts, but at no stage did he ever try to talk me out of it.
"He knew that it was a difficult situation for all families that go to Melbourne because we don't have anyone else around; it's yourself and your teammates.
"Both my parents and my wife's parents were back in Queensland and she was trying to raise three children pretty much by herself because I'm away for half of the year – probably more including representative football – so he understood the situation and knew my thoughts around that but never did he try to talk me out of it."
Smith was torn until his wife steered him in the right direction.
"I thought I'd come to the right decision when I spoke to Craig that day," he revealed.
"My wife knew that, I think she could just tell by the way I was getting around that I was quite uneasy with that decision until she pulled me up and told me that although going to Brisbane may be easier for the family, at the end of the day, what will be easier is if I make the decision that I'm comfortable with and what would make me happy.
"As soon as she told me that I knew what the decision was and that was to stay at Melbourne because that's what I wanted to do."
A move back north might have made sense for the Logan Brothers junior early in the piece when he was still getting used to Melbourne's wintry chill, but 355 games later, Smith has settled in and is happy to call the place home.
"My first winter, I was thinking 'what have I done? This is ridiculous'," he laughed.
"I didn't really ever spend too much time out of Queensland and the first winter when it got down to five degrees and I was out on the field, I was thinking 'I don't know how many times I can do this'.
"It slowly grows on you, Melbourne. It's a wonderful city. When you spend time down there, it's a wonderful place, and if I didn't enjoy it or if I didn't love it as much as I do then I wouldn't have stayed down there.
"I don't think anyone involved in rugby league would've thought that someone would break a game’s record playing rugby league in Melbourne.
"I'm extremely grateful I made the decision to go to that club. It's a wonderful organisation filled with a lot of great people over a long period of time who have all helped in some way get me to this week."
The humbly-spoken skipper has made a habit of breaking all sorts of records this year but believes his impending milestone is by far and away the most significant; even if the magnitude of it all hasn't quite set in.
Making it more special is the fact he will go past Darren Lockyer, and while Smith said his Maroons mentor had so far brushed him, he is looking forward to catching up ahead of this weekend's momentous occasion.
"I think it has to sit at the top, doesn't it?" he said of the milestone.
"To be able to have the record for most games played by any player in the history of the game, that's a fairly significant milestone. It's really hard to – not embrace it – but to really take in the significance of it entirely because I'm still playing.
"I know that there's this game this weekend and then hopefully we've got another couple to play after it and I've got a contract next year as well while at the same time still preparing for the match.
"It's really hard to digest the magnitude of the whole thing. I understand it and I'm quite proud and very humbled to be able to achieve this, particularly going past a guy that I looked up to when I was a teenager, but it's hard to take in the entire thing in while you're still playing."