Peter FitzSimons has questioned the timing of Cameron Smith's retirement announcement on the eve of the 2021 NRL season.
The Melbourne Storm champion finally announced his retirement on Wednesday, confirming his playing days are over at the unveiling of his statue outside AAMI Park.
'DON'T KNOW ME': Cooper Cronk in live TV clash with journo
His announcement brings to a close an extraordinary 19-season career that has the 37-year-old touted as a future rugby league Immortal.
Smith says he only made a decision last week and thought the unveiling would be the perfect spot to make it public.
However Smith has copped some backlash for leaving the announcement so late, with many believing he's taken the attention away from the season-opener on Thursday night.
Former Wallabies player and media personality FitzSimons sarcastically tweeted: "Why so soon? Surely he could have left the announcement until they run out tomorrow evening?"
Smith said he told coach Craig Bellamy and long-time football manager Frank Ponissi on Wednesday morning before letting his teammates and club staff know just before the statue formalities.
Smith said he was "wrestling with the idea" for some time.
"I've spent a few months up in Queensland with the family and had really good opportunities to think over my thoughts on playing on or not," Smith said on Wednesday.
"I look back on my career and found I was very fortunate to be part of a wonderful organisation filled with many great footballers and great people and it felt like the right time to finish off the back of what was a very successful season last year."
Curtain comes down on Cameron Smith's career
The Brisbane-born hooker made his NRL debut with Melbourne in 2002 and has played a record 430 games - the only player in history to surpass 400.
It was Smith's first official Storm appearance since their 2020 grand final win over Penrith and comes just a day out from the club's NRL season opener against South Sydney.
It will be the first time Smith hasn't appeared in a Melbourne round one team since 2003.
Smith said he won't be at the game as it is his eldest daughter Jada's 13th birthday, but he intends returning to a home match to farewell the Storm faithful.
He's the last to retire of Melbourne's so-called "Big Three", that included Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, who were so integral to the club's sustained success.
Slater's statue, also unveiled Wednesday, sits alongside Smith's.
"Cam is not only among the most decorated players the game has ever seen, he made an immeasurable contribution to our club on and off the field, and his legacy will be remembered in Melbourne forever," the Storm posted on Twitter.
Smith also holds the NRL record for the most points scored with 2786, including 14 in last year's grand final.
Among his other honours are two Dally M Medals, in 2006 and 2017, and two Golden Boot awards, for the player adjudged to be the best in the world, in 2007 and 2017.
Playing in eight grand finals, Smith steered the Storm to NRL premierships in 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017 and 2020, although the first two titles were later stripped for salary-cap breaches.
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.