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Storm call in Cam again for first final without Smith since '08

Melbourne have re-enlisted the services of favourite son Cameron Smith as the Storm prepare for their first finals outing without the future Immortal since 2008.

Smith has largely kept his distance from rugby league since retiring two days before the season started, with COVID-19 chaos preventing a planned AAMI Park send-off for the Storm icon more than once in 2021.

Melbourne have conquered everything in the path since Smith bowed out, claiming a record-equalling 19 straight wins with Brandon Smith especially and Harry Grant coming to the fore at dummy-half.

Smith's absence was always going to be felt most in clutch finals games though and remains the great unknown for Craig Bellamy's side, given the former captain led Melbourne in 28 straight finals games after his suspension from the 2008 preliminary final and subsequent decider.

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With that in mind, Storm powerbrokers called on Smith to deliver his first team address since retiring ahead of Friday's mouth-watering clash against Manly.

"We got Cam to speak to the guys via zoom last week, we got him on there as part of getting our heads ready for finals," football manager Frank Ponissi told

"Cam spoke to the team, we'd be crazy not to use him for his expertise and experience, he's played 42 finals, more than anyone else.

"He gave a couple of messages and pointed out a few things that the boys should be focusing on for the finals.

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"We taped something with Smithy and used certain parts of it as an address to the team.

"That's the first time he's spoken to the whole group since the start of the season when he presented Jesse Bromwich [co-captain Dale Finucane was out injured] in round one with his first jersey as captain."

Smith has previously jumped into Bellamy's coach's box during Magic Round and indicated last week he would consider a role on Queensland's Origin staff if approached by the QRL.

Grant acknowledged on Sunday the sizeable void Smith's absence leaves comes finals time, as he prepares for his first finals game in a career that has already yielded a Maroons debut and Dally M rookie of the year honours.

"You look at Smithy's record, the amount of finals games he's played and big games he's played," Grant said.

"He's such an experienced competitor and we're definitely going to miss that.

"In saying that, it's not up to myself or Brandon, it more as a group sharing that around and knowing what Cam did so well for the team over the past 20-odd years, and then as a group collectively put that into our game."

Munster: I'm 50-50 for final

Melbourne's main man Cameron Munster says he's only a 50-50 proposition and will be given until captain's run to recover from a knee infection that required a surgical clean-out last week.

A call on Josh Addo-Carr's troublesome hamstring will come on Tuesday given there is unlikely to be a stark change in the injury if he isn’t fit by mid-week.

Storm prop Christian Welch said the NRL's latest six-again changes have played to Smith and Grant's strengths as a dummy-half pairing as they still look to master the game management that was their predecessor's forte.

"The way he manages games that's the thing we've missed the most with Cam," Welch said.

"Obviously Brandon and Harry bring a different skill set, probably a bit more physical in having the speed to get out of [dummy] half.

"And that's really suited the quicker pace of the game but at the same time we need to learn to play a game with patience.

"That was one of Cameron Smith's strengths, when the halves and the fullbacks are calling for the ball, he had the ability to ignore them and play flat, fast and through the middle to grind teams out.

"I think it's an underrated skill that our hookers are starting to learn and in finals it's really important to have that mentality of patience and grinding teams out.

"We'll be looking to have that against Manly on Friday."

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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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