How Smith celebrated game's greatest milestone
His coach spoke of his feelings of inadequacy in being a part of his jersey presentation but Cameron Smith said the enormity of breaking Darren Lockyer's all-time games record wouldn't sink in until after a late night cup of tea and a couple of biscuits.
A week of celebrations surrounding Smith's 356th game in the premiership had its fitting conclusion when the Storm held out a determined Parramatta outfit 18-16 in Saturday's Qualifying Final that earned the minor premiers a place in the Preliminary Finals in a fortnight's time.
The unassuming future Immortal conceded after the game that the events of the week had eaten into his team's preparation for a crucial finals encounter but was grateful for the acknowledgement, even if the magnitude was still yet to hit him.
"It's been quite surreal. It's really hard to comprehend breaking the games record of what was it, 9,000 people that have played the game since 1908? I might just have a little think about that when I get home," Smith said.
"Once I get home tonight and put my jarmies and moccasins on and have a cup of tea with a couple of biccies, check all the scores that have happened throughout the day, I'll probably sit back and enjoy what's happened here this afternoon.
"It's been a great week. I'm obviously extremely proud of the record, I'm very grateful for what the club and the NRL put together a nice memento for me to take home but there were a lot of things that we did this week that we don't normally do and rightly so. It's not every day you get to break the games record.
"It was a really special week for myself and my family but it's nice to get a victory and get that game out of the way because in a fortnight's time we need to prepare as well as we can for this next game."
Craig Bellamy has been the Storm coach for all but two of Smith's 356 games to date and struggled to find the appropriate words of praise for a player he said didn't leave a lasting impression when he first arrived at the club ahead of the 2003 season.
"Who would have thought a skinny little hooker 15 years ago that would come to a club that was five years old and break the record for the most number of games in the NRL," Bellamy asked post-game.
"If someone had said that when I first met him, you would have been rolling around on the ground laughing.
"For him to do what he's done… and we're extremely proud here at Melbourne that he's done it here. It's not the No.1 game here but what he's done for our club has been quite remarkable.
"To me it's surreal that I've coached this kid for 15 years and he's played the most NRL games ever. That's hard for me to believe, especially when you look at him. It's just surreal."
Given he is the raging hot favourite to win the Dally M Medal this year and the team he leads is one win away from the grand final, the question is now how great the record for games played will be when Smith finally calls it a day.
Hinting that he could play on beyond next year when his current contract expires, Smith said that he doesn't feel pressured to play on to help transition the young players into the squad but Bellamy can see no reason why more milestones aren't in store.
"I can't see why he couldn't [get to 400]," Bellamy said.
"Every pre-season he comes in – well, he comes halfway through pre-season – but every year he comes in and there's something to improve on. The last five or six years they've only been small things – how much more can he improve? – but there's something that he turns up each pre-season looking to get better at.
"If he ever turns up for a pre-season and hasn't got something he wants to get better at… Physically he could play on for another three, four or five years perhaps but it will be the mental part of it.
"[The record] will probably get broken at some stage but I'm pretty sure he's going to give them a few more to chase as well."