Veteran journalist Robert Craddock has detailed a conversation Cameron Smith had with his wife before announcing his retirement on Wednesday.
The Melbourne Storm champion finally announced his retirement, confirming his playing days are over at the unveiling of his statue outside AAMI Park.
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His announcement brings to a close an extraordinary 19-season career that has the 37-year-old touted as a future rugby league Immortal.
With speculation still swirling about Smith's future just one day before the start of the 2021 season, Craddock revealed how Smith's wife was gobsmacked that he hadn't made his decision yet.
“I don’t reckon he’s being contrarian, I reckon he’s stuck,” Craddock said on Tuesday.
“And they key quote I got off him in an interview in December, he said, ‘My wife Barb says to me, Cameron, why is it you can make 100 decisions during a league game but you cannot make one off the field?’
“So he’s stuck and he’s not being Mr Smarty Pants, leading anyone on.
“He rang (Johnathan) Thurston, (Paul) Gallen and (Billy) Slater and said, ‘Tell me when you know’ and they all said, ‘Mate, the bell goes off’. He said, ‘My bell just hasn’t rung. I just can’t get a vibe on it’.”
Rugby league world pays tribute to Cameron Smith
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 after 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.
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 2,786, 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.
The durable hooker was also instrumental in Queensland's eight-year State of Origin reign between 2006 and 2013, while he was represented Australia from 2006 until his retirement from representative football at the end of 2017.
Named the permanent Kangaroos captain in 2012, he played in 56 Tests, winning 49.
Smith was believed to have been courted by Brisbane, for a final season to help resurrect the embattled former powerhouse club, and the Gold Coast, where he has relocated with his family, but decided to hang up his boots instead as a one-club player.
Tributes have been flooding in on social media.
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