Retirement is looming as the only scenario where Melbourne Storm veteran Cameron Smith doesn't face criticism from the rugby league world.
Storm players are in the dark as speculation mounts that Smith is about to call time on his storied career.
The Melbourne skipper will return from three weeks out with an injured shoulder to lead his side against Manly on Sunday on the Sunshine Coast, but his NRL games appear to be numbered.
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Melbourne are expecting Smith to choose retirement over another season with the club where he made his debut in 2002, with the other option to play a final year with a Queensland club.
Smith runs the risk of being branded "selfish" if he does decide he wants to play on with the Storm - where young-gun hookers Brandon Smith and Harry Grant are waiting in the wings for their opportunity.
Smith's presence would potentially jeopardise the future of both players, with neither one likely to be happy playing third-string.
Melbourne need Smith to make a call ASAP so they can sort out the futures of their rising star hookers.
The management of Kiwi ace Smith, who is currently out with a fractured jaw, told the Storm he wants out of the club should the veteran play so he can seek a starting No.9 role elsewhere.
Grant is currently with Wests Tigers on a one-year loan deal and while he says he's committed to returning to Melbourne next year, he's unlikely to be happy being third in line for a start.
NRL 360 co-host Paul Kent says the 37-year-old owes it to the club and the two young stars to make his intentions clear.
Smith urged to clarify future ASAP
“He should make his mind up soon. I think he’s selfish,” Kent said.
“You’ve got two other players at the club whose immediate futures have a significant bearing on it.
“Melbourne have always been experts at handling their salary cap but this is throwing them right out because you’ve got three players all on significant money, who are trying to figure out what their futures look like.
“It all rests on one player. It should have happened ages ago.”
Channel Nine rugby league reporter Danny Weidler agreed that Smith would look selfish if he held back the careers of the two young hookers, meaning a move to one of the Queensland teams is a more realistic option.
However, given how critical Smith was of longtime Storm teammate Cooper Cronk's defection to the Roosters, Weidler says any move to a rival club could be viewed as hypocritical.
“Given he was critical of Cooper Cronk when he left the Storm for the Roosters, I don’t think he would want to be branded a hypocrite in any way,” Weidler said.
“I would be saying he’ll finish up at the Storm.”
That sentiment has been echoed by Smith's father Wayne, who told News Corp he believes the NRL great will retire at the end of 2020 as a one-club player and an undisputed legend of the game.