Melbourne Storm capt

The real story why Smith chose Storm over the Broncos

When Cameron Smith was 17 he had matching $10,000 contracts on the table from the Brisbane Broncos and Melbourne Storm - and a big decision to make.

For a young footballer who grew up supporting the Broncos, it was always going to be a tough one.

Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett met in 2000 with Smith and his parents, Wayne and Sonia, for a chat about the teenager's future.

There are still myths about the Broncos early attitude towards Smith and Bennett dispelled one of them.

"I remember walking out of the room and talking to [recruiter] Cyril Connell and saying 'they are not coming here' because I just felt there was a mood that they had come to pay us due diligence but not really come to be at the Broncos," Bennett told NRL.com.

"I offered them a $10,000 contract because that was the going rate at the time for kids coming up, and we rated Cameron highly.

"I never felt we brushed Cameron Smith but there is a perception out there we gave him the arse, but that was never the case.

"I wanted him here and I’d seen him play personally in the under 17s, and he could play."

Wayne Smith told NRL.com he "absolutely" got the sense from Bennett that he wanted his son on board in that meeting.

Storm hooker Cameron Smith.
Storm hooker Cameron Smith. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

"He wanted Cam to be part of the Broncos family and organisation,” he said.

"Brisbane had the courtesy of talking to Cam and we had the courtesy of speaking to them, but we wanted him to have a pathway to the NRL within a reasonable time span of five years.

"The Broncos offer was exactly the same as Melbourne's so it wasn't a money thing. It was a pathways thing."

Cameron was able to sign with the Storm and stay in Brisbane and learn his trade with feeder club Norths Devils.

NSW Origin hooker Luke Priddis, 23 at the time, was at the Broncos and the Smith family presumed he was going to be there for the long haul.

Bennett has shed light on the fact that Priddis was on the way out of Brisbane.

"Luke was gone by the end of the [2001] season and he was always going. He had come here becasue of the Super League war,” Bennett said.

"We had Luke Priddis here but we were to go on for five or six years without a recognised hooker and I had to play Shaun Berrigan at hooker in the 2006 grand final because we couldn't get a hooker that we needed."

Cameron had flown under the radar of all NRL clubs as a junior at Logan Brothers.

Bennett has said in the past that "you can't sign them all" and as Smith progressed through the ranks, he slipped through the net.

"What I will say is that Cam was never part of the Broncos system," Wayne Smith said.

"He wasn't identified until the state carnival for under-17s and there were guys they had on scholarships from the age of 13, but Cam wasn't offered one of them until he was 17."

A young Cameron Smith in Maroons Origin camp.
A young Cameron Smith in Maroons Origin camp. ©NRL Photos

He said the family was advised at the time by Cameron's manager not to take that scholarship up so that he didn't feel obligated to Brisbane.

The rest is history, and 364 games later for the Melbourne Storm the name Cameron Smith is on the way to being etched into Immortality.

Leading into Friday night's clash with Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium, it is worth noting his record against the Broncos is phenomenal.

He's played 33 games against them and won 25. He hasn't lost at Suncorp Stadium against the Broncos since 2009 and as captain of Melbourne he's won 10 of 11 games against Brisbane at the venue where he’s also played many great games for Queensland.

Wayne Smith reckons there is a part of his son, as a Broncos supporter as a youth, that instills him with immense pride whenever he takes on Brisbane.

"As much as proving to the Broncos that he took the right pathway it is about proving to himself that he did, and reinforcing that," Wayne said.

"It is not to show them up or to say ‘you didn’t offer me anything’ because they did offer him something and it was exactly the same as Melbourne.

"Suncorp Stadium is his favourite ground to play at and he has a lot of pride in his performance because there are a lot of childhood friends and family that go to watch him.

"For this game there are 20 or 30 guys that he played with in the [Logan Brothers] juniors that have got together on Facebook and they are going along to the game, and that’s been going on for the last couple of years."

It should not be forgotten that Bennett was coach of the Maroons in 2003 when Smith made his Origin debut in a 36-6 win. He's been the Queensland hooker for 42 games now and set for his 16th season in the Maroons jersey.

Bennett brought Smith in to the Queensland Origin team after the Maroons had lost the opening two matches of 2003 where PJ Marsh, Michael Crocker and Scott Sattler had shared hooking duties.

"Wayne Bennett phoned Craig Bellamy and asked what he'd get from Cam and Craig said something like 'good service from dummy half and 30 tackles'."

Friday night's clash could be the last time Smith plays against Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium but his old man said that "if I was a betting man I'd say that he'll probably go around for one more year".

Bennett only has admiration for Smith's stellar career for the Storm, Maroons and Kangaroos.

"He’s had a great career and I’ve been proud of Cameron and love the way he plays the game. He's been remarkable," Bennett said.

"If they have a grand final of best ever hookers, he is going to be right up the top."