Bellamy says Smith can go beyond 2019
Cameron Smith doesn't need to stop playing any time soon as Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy says his hooker and captain is looking as good as ever.
Smith, who is off contract at the end of 2018, last week said he wanted to play on next year.
But Bellamy told NRL.com his 381-game veteran didn't need to stop there.
"He can play on a couple more years," he said on Wednesday, as he prepares his Storm squad to play South Sydney in the first qualifying final at AAMI Park on Friday night.
"Sometimes age does creep up on you and it can come with a thud. But I don't see any signs of him slowing down at all."
The fact Smith gave away representative football mid-year - no more Tests or Origins for the former captain of both Australia and Queensland - is having an immediate effect.
"I think he's definitely fresher for not playing Origin," Bellamy said of his 35-year-old leader.
"That takes a lot out of you physically and emotionally. For me he's still looking as good as ever."
Some believe Smith's game has altered slightly to compensate for the absence of team organiser half Cooper Cronk.
"Cameron is doing similar things now to what he did last year but perhaps then they weren't noticed as much because Cooper was there," Bellamy said.
"His game has changed a little this year but not a lot. He gets into different positions when he has the ball."
And Smith is up against quality opposition in Rabbitohs No.9 Damien Cook.
Bellamy wouldn't swap Smith for anyone but he likes the look of Cook.
"Just his pace – he's quick. We found that out the hard way the last time we played them," he said, referring to Melbourne's 20-10 loss to Souths in round 21.
Don't miss out on seeing your team chase premiership glory. Make sure to get your tickets to week 1 of the 2018 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series