Golden Boot Cameron Smith sets next lofty goal
Moments after receiving the second Golden Boot Award of his stellar career, Cameron Smith has nominated his next great challenge as winning back-to-back premierships with the Melbourne Storm.
Smith, who said he was both humbled and delighted to win the coveted award for the world's best player, pointed out that no team in the NRL era had been able to win titles in consecutive years and that an immense challenge was ahead of the Storm with a new halves combination.
The Australian skipper is up for the challenge and was emphatic when asked what he had left to achieve in the game.
"It is a really, really hard thing to do so it would be a special achievement to be part of a side that could go back-to-back as premiers," Smith said.
"Particularly without Cooper [Cronk] given he is a 300-gamer and his experience at this level.
"Having a new halfback [Brodie Croft] who is only 20 years of age, it is a challenge for Brodie and a challenge for us to try and replicate the consistent performances we have put in during 2017."
Smith said 2017 was close to his best and most consistent year ever in rugby league.
He reiterated that he would make a call on whether to continue his representative career in the months following the World Cup final.
The 34-year-old rake, who loathes missing training sessions or games, said the Storm had to twist his arm to manage his workload this season and that would be the case again in 2018 if he was to continue pulling on the Maroons and Kangaroos jersey.
He is sitting on 358 career NRL games and said the magic landmark of 400 was "achievable".
"It is within reach, but the important thing is that I don't try and change what has worked for me in the past and that is training hard, preparing myself physically and mentally and making sure that come the weekend you have done everything possible to get yourself right for those matches."
Smith said the secret to his personal success in recent times was a renewed freedom with his approach to the game.
"It is funny how your career goes around in circles," he said.
"It is almost like when you are at the end it is similar to the way you started.
"You are there to enjoy what you are doing with your mates and you play with a lot more freedom than what you did in the middle part of your career, when you were probably worried about doing anything wrong, about the result or what the coach was going to say about the way you played.
"Certainly this year, and the most part of 2016 as well, every time I got on the paddock I was there to play like I did in junior football… to play fun footy with my mates.
"Whatever I see in front of me, that is what I play."
Smith, who also won the Golden Boot in 2007, edged out Tonga's Jason Taumololo to win the 2017 gong with England winger Jermaine McGilvary and Fiji's Suliasi Vunivalu also on the final shortlist.
"It is certainly a prestigious award and… I am extremely humbled given I was up against some quality players," Smith said.
"Jason Taumalolo has been in fantastic form the last two years and is a force of nature.
"The other two boys who play on the wing – Jermaine and Suliasi – have played some wonderful football as well."
Winning the award twice a decade apart was also a confirmation of Smith's own ethos.
"It shows what I have considered to be important, and that is that I don't ever want to drop my standards," he said.
"It has always been important to me that no matter what my age or the circumstances that happen throughout a season, I just try and do my best every year.
"This year things aligned quite well for me and I enjoyed the season thoroughly. That is an important component in why I have been able to play some pretty good football throughout the entire year."