Cameron Smith might have spent several months hinting at retirement without pulling the trigger, but that hasn’t stopped various rugby league diehards from pondering his place among the sport’s greats.
But not everyone is happy to dive into the debate about the Melbourne Storm veteran’s place among rugby league greats.
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Veteran NRL reporter Paul Crawley says discussing Smith as the greatest rugby league player of all time was ‘a bit of an insult’ to those who had come before him.
“It’s nothing against Cameron Smith personally,” Crawley said while on the panel for NRL360.
“But I actually think it’s a bit of an insult to 112 years of rugby league history that we constantly say that he’s the best.
“Every generation has its best, Cameron Smith is the best of his time. But I don’t think anyone can categorically say that he’s the best of all time.”
Crawley said he found it difficult to elevate Smith, who has played over 400 games and won multiple premierships with the Storm, above historical greats such as Wally Lewis, while the likes of Andrew Johns and Johnathan Thurston also deserved consideration ahead of him.
Smith’s relatively flair-free style also counted against him, Crawley said.
.@Storm teammates are sick of the lack of respect for Cameron Smith from New South Wales. If it wasn't for Smith, one of the greatest 41-game starts to a career we have seen may not have happened at all. @mattcarmichael #NRL #7NEWS pic.twitter.com/0Wpt82An33
— 7NEWS Sydney (@7NewsSydney) October 20, 2020
“He doesn’t put me on the edge of my seat when I watch him play,” he said.
“When you watched Joey (Johns), it was exhilarating.
“In 2005 when he came back and won NSW that Origin series, what he did on the field it was like he was a magician. It was like watching a beautiful painting.
“Rugby league is not just about how long you’ve played or what your career record says.”
Andrew Johns, Paul Crawley debate Cam Smith’s legacy
While co-host Andrew Johns accepted the point that Smith wasn’t the explosive player other greats perhaps were, he said the Storm great’s consistency made him stand out.
John added that Smith’s knowledge of the game and IQ on the field also more than made up for his shorter highlight reel.
“I think he’s the best, I think he’s the very best,” Johns said.
“Wally will always be the greatest player ever to play Origin, but for me I think Cameron Smith is the greatest player ever.
“He plays in the toughest position, he plays 80 minutes, he doesn‘t get injured and just his attention to detail, the way he sees the game, we all have a laugh about his body and how he’s not ripped up but he’s a footy player.
“You can see he’s so smart. He literally is a couple of tackles ahead of other players. He uses the ball, he’s always got it two hands, he waves it around and defenders are mesmerised by it.
“They sit there and look at the ball, they get stuck in the mud, they get on their heels and then he leaves them.
“He’s not the strongest, he’s not the fastest, but he’s the smartest and for me the greatest player to ever play the game.”
Smith and the Storm are set to face the Penrith Panthers in Sunday night’s NRL grand final.
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