http://www.couriermail.com.au/sport/nrl/teams/storm/cameron-smith-poised-to-sign-a-oneyear-contract-and-play-on-in-2019/news-story/d1395acce9c6c22c2b61360cb1ade4b3Cameron Smith poised to sign a one-year contract and play on in 2019
PETER BADEL, The Courier-Mail
April 21, 2018
MAROONS skipper Cameron Smith is set to shelve retirement plans and sign another NRL contract in a move that would see him become the last man standing of Melbourne’s Big Three in 2019.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy has revealed he expects Smith to suit up for a remarkable 18th season of NRL next year to help guide the club through the expected retirement of champion fullback Billy Slater.
Smith and Bellamy are both off-contract at season’s end, but the Storm coach told The Sunday Mail the duo, who have worked together for 16 years, will decide their futures independently.
It is understood Melbourne have devised a succession plan that includes Smith playing on in 2019, providing leadership stability to combat the anticipated retirement of Slater.
Veteran halfback Cooper Cronk stunned Storm bosses by joining the Roosters this season, shattering Melbourne’s Holy Trinity that included Smith and Slater.
Smith played his 365th first-grade game against Brisbane on Friday night and a 12-month extension will put him on track to become the first player in history to reach 400 NRL matches.
Smith, who turns 35 in June, said in pre-season that he was mindful of playing a year too long, but Bellamy believes the Queensland rake will wear Storm colours next season.“I reckon Cam has another year or two in him,” Bellamy said.
“With older players, the key is whether they lose the desire to work as hard as they have to get where they have got.
“Some guys might lose a bit physically, but Cameron won’t have that issue.
“As he gets older, the issue will be his mindset and whether he wants to keep working hard to play at the level that he and his teammates expect of him.
“When he isn’t prepared to do that, that will be the time. But I don’t think he is ready to retire at the moment, I can’t see any reason why he won’t go on one more year at least.”
Smith and Bellamy have helped Melbourne to seven grand finals in 11 years, but the coach says if he quits the club at season’s end, it won’t influence the hooker’s decision.
“No, what I do won’t have an impact on Cam,” Bellamy said.
“At the end of the day, we’ve had a great run together, but I won’t make a decision based on whether Cam goes on and he won’t make his decision on whether I go on.
“It would be nice to finish together but I’m pretty sure it won’t come into my thoughts or Cam’s thoughts.
“It will be an individual thing.”
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett, who handed Smith his Origin debut in 2003, believes the Australia hooker’s form is not on the wane.
“That’s up to him whether he plays on, I can’t tell you what he wants to do, but he has been a remarkable player and is still playing top football,” Bennett said.
Bellamy said Smith’s leadership and experience would be even more crucial if Slater decided to retire, as expected, this year.
“It feels surreal to me that I have coached this guy for 16 years,” Bellamy said.
“Anyone could have coached Cam because he honestly makes things easy for you.
“To have coached a guy who has played more games than anyone else in our sport, it’s a real privilege for me. Not only has Cam been a wonderful player, he’s just a great clubman as well.
“He has done so much for the Melbourne Storm.”