MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 30: Cameron Smith of the Storm runs with the ball during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Gosch's Paddock on July 30, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 30: Cameron Smith of the Storm runs with the ball during a Melbourne Storm NRL training session at Gosch's Paddock on July 30, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Ageless Cameron Smith will play on in 2020

Former Queensland skipper Cameron Smith has declared he is marching on with the unbreakable Storm champion to shun retirement and play on beyond his 37th birthday next season.

As he prepares for Sunday's Storm-Souths blockbuster in Gosford, Smith dismissed speculation he could quit at season's end, insisting he will be back for a remarkable 19th NRL campaign in 2020.

With NFL quarterback legend Tom Brady last week signing a two-year, $85 million extension at age 42, it raises the question - could Smith be the NRL's equivalent to Brady by playing first grade at age 40?

It would be unlikely, but Storm coach Craig Bellamy is adamant there is no end in sight for the NRL's most-capped player, who plays his 404th game in a possible grand-final preview clash with Wayne Bennett's Rabbitohs.

 

 

Smith shows no signs of slowing down. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.
Smith shows no signs of slowing down. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.

When Smith agreed to a two-year deal in January, the Storm skipper pledged to treat the arrangement on a year-by-year basis. He indicated he would sit down with Bellamy and Storm management during this season to discuss whether he should honour the final year of his deal.

But after being blown away by Smith's masterful control in Melbourne's 40-4 belting of the Broncos last week, Bellamy wants his captain to play on - and Smith is happy to oblige.

"At this stage, I'm playing on," Smith told The Sunday Mail.

"I haven't had any thoughts of not playing in 2020.

"I remember when I signed on for two years I said to many people about the second season I will be in continual talks with Craig in particular and the rest of the coaches and our high-performance staff about my contributions to the side and where they felt I was at physically.

"The coach hasn't pulled me aside yet and said, 'I don't feel you are doing enough for us'.

"I'm feeling good.

"Some people have a different outlook about when the right time is to retire, some feel it's the right time to go while you are on top.

Smith is already the most-capped player in the game’s history. Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images.
Smith is already the most-capped player in the game’s history. Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images.

"Others say play as long as you can, don't worry about what might happen, if you are enjoying it keep playing ... and that's where my mindset is at the moment.

"I know how I am feeling mentally and I feel really good. I am enjoying my footy as much as I ever have."

Smith has been around so long that he is the only survivor of the 34 players who took the field in his Storm debut against Canterbury way back in 2002.

To illustrate his longevity, his Storm captain that day, Robbie Kearns, retired 14 years ago. Rival Bulldogs skipper Steve Price retired 10 years ago.

Yet Smith continues to flourish at age 36 and is on course to exceed 430 premiership matches next year.

"I can believe he is so good at age 36," Bellamy says.

"I see him every week, he is still competitive at training, he still wants to get better.

"You don't get better if you don't put the work in and he still puts the work in. We give him some sessions off now because of his age but when he does train, which is most of time, he is usually the last guy to leave.

"I'm pretty sure Cam will play on next year, he hasn't given any indication to us that he won't. There has to be a time where his interest starts waning but I haven't seen that at the moment.

Smith will play into his 19th season. Picture by Alix Sweeney.
Smith will play into his 19th season. Picture by Alix Sweeney.

"The one thing I have been looking at since his 400th game was would there be a drop-off in Cam's interest or intensity but I haven't seen it. He still has that hunger even though he set that record."

Against the Broncos, Smith became the first player in rugby league history to captain 300 NRL games. He says the Storm's constant influx of fresh blood is keeping him energised.

"The thing that has never changed, even before I started playing first grade, I had this attitude and mindset towards my footy since I was a young fella," he said.

"I'm here to compete against the opposition every weekend but the biggest competitor is myself.

"I always want to out-do my last performance.

"There are other factors at my age, but the other thing that has driven me and kept me hungry is the new faces at the Melbourne Storm.

"Seeing guys like Brodie Croft, Cameron Munster, Josh Addo-Carr, Justin Olam, Jahrome Hughes ... these guys bring a new energy and new enthusiasm.

"It's great mentoring these blokes ... it's given me a spring in my step."

Live stream the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership on KAYO SPORTS. Every game of every round live & anytime on your TV or favourite device. Get your 14 day free trial.

News Corp Australia


This bloke just tried to save a stranger's house with a hose

premium_icon This bloke just tried to save a stranger's house with a hose

JACOB Vidler said instincts took over as he battled a house fire.

VIDEO: Fire ravages Coffs Harbour family's home

premium_icon VIDEO: Fire ravages Coffs Harbour family's home

'House was well alight with flames out through the front windows'

Family of plane crash victims speak out

premium_icon Family of plane crash victims speak out

“Jeff’s and Matt’s passing is devastating news."