Smith drops cryptic retirement hint
Melbourne Storm captain Cameron Smith has potentially dropped a bombshell after his side's 14-6 loss to the Sydney Roosters in the NRL preliminary final.
The 36-year-old all-time leader in points scored and games played has nothing else to really do in the game with an incredible legacy.
While he is contracted for another season, Smith said he'd have to think about whether he wants to go around again in 2020.
Smith has been at the helm during the Storm's incredible run of making the preliminary finals for seven of the last nine seasons as he has become one of the greats of the game - even arguably the greatest.
Smith shared a warm moment with Cooper Cronk post match after the players played much of their careers together with the Storm, Queensland and Australia.
But their relationship appeared to chill in the past two years.
With Cronk set to retire after his ninth Grand Final in the NRL, the pair put their arms around each other and shared a few words.
When chatting to former teammate Billy Slater, the former Storm fullback asked if he'd go around for another year.
"I don't know mate, I'll have a think about it over the next few weeks and decide then," Smith said.
"I've said all along particularly over the past two or three seasons even though I'm getting on a bit and the end is near, I've been enjoying my football thoroughly. I'm playing a bit of a different style of football in the last couple of years now that we have a lot of younger inexperienced players and in a way, it's given me a new lease on life in footy.
"But a lot of things to think about mate, obviously the family's getting a bit older now with the three kids and there's a lot of things on. A lot of things to way up."
He even offered to "muck out the stables" for Slater's business.
Either way, it seems up in the air as for whether Smith will come back for his 19th season in the NRL.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy said he has no inside knowledge and it will come down to Smith.
"I haven't really spoken to him about it but at the end of the day if he wants to speak to me about it, he'll come and have a chat but he's got to make that decision himself," Bellamy said. "Obviously he'll consult with his family and go from there. But at the end of the day, whatever decision he makes, I'll back him 100 per cent and I'm not going to go away from that. Whatever he wants to do he's earned the right to do it.
"He's been a wonderful player, more than a wonderful player and I can't find the words for the influence he's had on our club and whatever he wants to do, I'm 100 per cent behind him."
Bellamy added that he was disappointed Smith wouldn't get the fairytale finish if he called it quits before taking a shot at the Sydney media.
Smith, particularly following the "rubbish on the face" incident, has been under the microscope in Sydney in recent months
"He's not going to get any raps up here," Bellamy said. "All he gets is brick bats up here, so hopefully his last game is in Brisbane or Melbourne."
How much you can read into that remains to be seen after Smith took some time to confirm he would be back for this season and it will again be a rollercoaster of speculation.
On Channel 9 commentary, former Queensland State of Origin teammate Johnathan Thurston was asked if he thought Smith would retire and said "I don't know".
"From the conversations I've had with him throughout the year, the body feels good like he mentioned after the game," Thurston said. "The youthfulness that's through the club has inspired him to keep going on and he's pretty much still the best player in the game. I can't see why not he wouldn't go around again given that. I think it will come down to the conversations he has with his wife Barb and the family but easily he could go around again and they'd be at the pointy end of the season again with him in the side."
Rugby league immortal Andrew Johns said it's so difficult, he wouldn't be surprised if Smith gave it away.
"It's a huge commitment, the off-season training, every other team train hard but the Melbourne Storm by all accounts get absolutely flogged every day," he said.
Phil Gould added Smith doesn't train as much during the pre-season anymore but said it would come down to whether Smith wants to keep playing.
"It's not easy to play in the NRL for anyone let alone at 48-years of age but his game is so well honed and he's so in control of it and everyone else feeds off him so well, he doesn't need to do the heavy lifting, it's all been done for him," Gould said. "He just needs to direct, marshal his troops, he'll survive for another 12 months, it's just whether he wants to, and whether he's motivated to do it."