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For & Against: Should Cameron Smith retire?

He is widely regarded as the game's best ever player and his list of achievements will simply never be matched - but could Father Time finally be catching up with Cameron Smith?

Until he copped a shoulder injury a couple of weeks back, most people would have said the 37-year-old was going as strong as ever and could easily go around again in 2021. But could this setback have the Storm captain finally feeling his age?

In this week's For & Against, Jillaroos legend and Channel Nine commentator Ruan Sims, who played on herself until she was 37, joins NRL.com senior reporter Margie McDonald to debate whether the man with an astonishing 423 NRL games to his name should retire in 2020.

For

NRL.com senior reporter Margie McDonald

We should really open the floor to Melbourne Storm supporters to answer this one.

And I've got a sneaking suspicion some would change their minds on the strength of what Harry Grant has shown with the Wests Tigers this year, and what Brandon Smith did in the Maoris All Star game in February and the Kiwis Test wins over Tonga and Great Britain last year.

Short answer: Cameron Smith is holding back the progress of these two young guns.

Give them a go while their bodies can still manage it. NRL careers are short enough as it is – not many get beyond 10 seasons. Cameron is in his 19th.

We now all know how Matt Ballin, Jake Friend and even Andrew McCullough felt waiting in the wings – patiently – to get a crack at the Maroons No.9 jersey.

Ballin got one game due to Cameron hyper-extending an elbow back in 2010. McCullough finally got his chance in 2018, when his best hooking years were already behind him. Friend is still waiting although he's won three premierships in the meantime.

Brandon Smith has filled in as the starting No.9 for Storm the past two weeks and they've won both times… put on 65 points in fact, and conceded 16.

Now standing in the way of other players might not be in itself a good enough reason to step aside.

But it is worth serious consideration now that Cameron has already enjoyed much glamour in a  glittering career.

It’s not as if he's a talented 200-game player turning 30. He will be 38 next June so we're not trying to cut short his career.

He was feted for his 50th Test match, his 40th Origin game, and his 400th NRL game.

He should finish 2020 with 425 games and I doubt that record will ever be bettered, especially if the speed and impact of the current brand of NRL remains.

Storm not taking Smith for granted

And while I'm barracking for Cameron Smith to do a Greta Garbo and leave while he's at his peak, who says retirement as a player needs to stall his influence as one of the greatest rugby league minds alive?

The man is an eight-time Dally M Hooker of the Year and a five-time Dally M Captain of the Year, which both get lost in the fact he's been a two-time Dally M Medal winner (2006, 2017).

The fact those two player of the year gongs are so far apart is another astounding fact about Cameron.

So let him sign his last pair of boots, frame his final jersey, and let's keep him in the game in another capacity.

He could do just about anything from football manager, assistant coach, football director, recruitment manager, head coach, CEO.

Cameron Smith evades Shane Webcke in 2004 in game no.29 of his illustrious career.
Cameron Smith evades Shane Webcke in 2004 in game no.29 of his illustrious career.

He's already sat on the NRL's competition committee, he's been a senior figure in the RLPA, so any type of administration job he's got the nous for.

In other words his influence on rugby league doesn't need to stop.

Look, half of me would like to turn him into Cameron Solo – freeze him in carbonite and hang him on the wall in the League Museum at Moore Park - so we could defrost him whenever we have a new group of hookers/captains/players that need to be shown the finest example in the game.

But we don’t need to do that. Cameron Smith has left his mark well and truly already.

Against

Jillaroos great and Channel Nine commentator Ruan Sims

Cameron Smith certainly has the capacity to play on. His game knowledge, intelligence and recognition is immense.

And although he's currently nursing a shoulder injury, before that happened he'd gone for more than six years without missing a game for the Melbourne Storm.

That shows incredible physical resilience. It's also pretty incredible in our game for a player that defends in the middle-third of the field to do that.

His experience is invaluable. He can control and manage a game, while still bringing out the best in every player around him.

Every single game he is among the Storm's top performers.

En route to 400: The best of Cameron Smith's glorious career

This year we saw Cam push into the halves a couple of times and that could well extend his career. Firstly, that would give him even more time to be creative, and secondly it means less traffic coming his way in defence.

Lately there has been speculation about him playing on at a different club. He's a proud Queenslander and could be tempted to return to his home state.

Imagine what a boost that would be for any club to pick him up, especially a club having a re-build and on the way back up.

Obviously the commercial aspects of that, such as the fan base repercussions, would be significant.

Cameron Smith in open space alert

We've seen a trend these days that fans are more player-driven. By this I mean fans often move with their favourite players.

So whether he decides to stay at the Storm or move to another club, every single player around him will benefit and become decent players for having been led by him and played with him – regardless of whether he has the (c) against his name.

He's just a person who is so charismatic in driving his team forward. He asks for and expects the best from people around him, and gives his best in return.

There's a real aura and energy around him. He just makes people better.

The thing I admire most about Cam is that the difference between his best game and his worst game is so tiny. That's why he is a champion.

It's also why Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston were champion players because what separated their best and their worst was negligible. 

In a game where sometimes you don't get to choose how, where, or when you retire, Cameron is a player who deserves the opportunity to do so.

Could he play on? Yes.

Should he play on? In my humble opinion, yes.

Will he play on? Well that's something only Cameron can answer.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.

 

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