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If the grand final was Cameron Smith’s final NRL appearance, the Storm captain ensured that he departed with a lasting impression of his greatness.

Smith insisted before Sunday night’s grand final decider against Penrith that the result would have no bearing on his decision to play on next season or retire but not even he could have dreamed of such a comprehensive first-half performance to secure his fourth premiership ring.

The Panthers scored 20 unanswered points in the second half to go down 26-20 but the 2020 title was all but decided when Smith grabbed his 48th career and first grand final try just six seconds before half-time.

There could be no better way to farewell the game he has served so well than by orchestrating a stunning defeat of the NRL minor premiers to end the Panthers' 17-game winning streak in the game that matters the most.

By doing so he would join a select few, such as Mal Meninga, Glenn Lazarus, Shane Webcke and Cooper Cronk, who bowed out with a grand final win. Many other great players were unable to finish their careers in such style.

Yet Smith demonstrated again on the game’s biggest stage that he is still at the peak of his powers and could easily play into his 38th year next season.

The oldest player to win a premiership in almost a century and the second oldest since George Green helped North Sydney to back-to-back titles in 1922, Smith has done everything in the game – and then some.

No matter where we are in this country, no matter where we are in the world in the future now we will always have a connection to 2020 and this team

Cameron Smith

Not only has Smith played more matches (430) than any other player, he has scored more points (2786), kicked more goals (1304) and made more tackles (16917) but the former Australian and Queensland skipper continues to set new standards.

His 14-point haul equalled Craig Fitzgibbon's 2002 record as the most by a player in a grand final during the NRL era, and he has now scored the most grand final points [42] of any player in premiership history.

Considered a future Immortal, Smith has played in eight grand finals, was a key figure in Queensland’s eight-year State of Origin domination and captained Australia to World Cup triumphs in 2013 and 2017 during a representative career spanning 56 Tests and 42 Origins.

After being chaired from Suncorp Stadium after last weekend’s preliminary final defeat of Canberra, Smith ran over to his family in the ANZ grandstand when the fulltime siren sounded and they are likely to influence whatever decision he makes.

Smith declined to answer questions about his future but team-mates said it would be the perfect ending to an illustrious career spanning 19 seasons if he was to retire.

"Whether he continues to play or whether he retires we will be happy for him," Storm forward Dale Finucane said.

"Obviously if he retires he has finished with a fairytale where he has won a premiership and if he continues to play on, he is still playing well. It is not like he is an older player who is fading out of the game. He featured in the Dally M points.

"He debuted in 2002 and some of our squad members were born only a couple of years before that and now they are playing with Cameron. A lot of people idolise him and pinch themselves that they are actually playing with him this year."

Smith did not want to compare this year's premiership with his others in 2007, 2012 and 2017 but said it had been a challenging season due to COVID-19 and the NRL’s strict biosecurity protocols that forced the Storm to relocate to the Sunshine Coast.

"We have got a really tough, very resilient group of men and not only did we show it tonight in the 80 minutes but I think what we produced this season under the conditions and the circumstances we did it in proves that we are a quality outfit," Smith said.

Bunker overturns on-field decision and awards try to Smith

"There are a lot of people in this country far worse off than we are but I am purely talking about this competition and what we have had to do to get here firstly and then to win it.

"I couldn't be prouder of the coaching staff, the performance staff, the players, our reserve grade families - not many of whom played a game this year - and all the families.

"For what everyone has been through this year and the challenges we faced to keep turning up every day getting done what we were asked to do by the coaches and putting ourselves in a position to win a grand final is pretty special.

"I think along the way there was probably a handful [of players] that at times struggled and that is understandable given the situation we were in.

"Never, ever in our lifetime have we been asked to do anything like this but we understood what we had to do and the reasons for it and we wanted this competition to continue so that's why we made the move.

"That is why I say this is a special group because at times there were challenges and struggles and everyone helped each other out through those tough times."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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