Smith reveals his retirement plans
Storm champion Cameron Smith has revealed he will not retire this season and has offered to be a consultant to Queensland coach Kevin Walters to help the Maroons reclaim State of Origin supremacy.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Sunday Mail, Smith discussed his future in the code, his willingness to help the Maroons and his devastation at the recent off-field scandals that have ruined the NRL's image.
The former Queensland and Test skipper - the most-capped player in rugby league's 111-year history with a staggering 387 NRL games - also outlined his vision for the NRL to dominate the AFL as Australia's No.1 sport.
"I want the NRL to prosper," Smith said. "I want it to be the best game in our country."
SMITH was expected to quit the NRL at the end of this season. Even his Storm club had budgeted in their salary-cap for their greatest player to enjoy an NRL swansong in 2019.
Then came the contract bombshell after last year's grand final loss to the Roosters.
The off-contract Smith, 36 in June, was expected to sign a 12-month deal. Instead, he asked for a two-year extension to carry him through until the end of 2020.
It has been speculated Smith will not see out the deal, but the Storm legend insists he will not be lost to the NRL this season as he prepares to become the first player to sail past the 400-game mark.
"My intention is to play two years - definitely," Smith told The Sunday Mail.
"If my intention wasn't to play two years, I wouldn't have asked for two years.
"It's been written that there is a handshake deal (to cut short his two-year arrangement and retire this year) but there's no handshake deal.
"If I thought 12 months is enough and I will have a think about 2020, I would have signed for just one year.
"But I felt so good after the State of Origin period (last year), that's when in my mind I thought, 'Let's play two years'.
"Physically and mentally, I'm in great shape."
SMITH admits not even Storm powerbrokers expected him to play on in 2020. But his mindset shifted last July after announcing his representative retirement and becoming an Origin spectator for the first time in 15 years.
Smith's contract stand-off last year was complex and murky. Incredibly, the code's No.1 player took part in the grand final without a formal deal for 2019. In January, Smith's future was finally settled. Today, he explains the saga.
"I posed the question to the club about a two-year contract," he said.
"I probably caught the Storm on the hop a bit.
"They were probably thinking 12 months, so they had to go away and talk about my decision and what impact that would have on their plans for the future.
"Thankfully they came back and the answer was a yes.
"Not being involved in Origin last year ... that tipped my thoughts into playing two more years.
"It did wonders for me not being involved in Origin both physically and mentally.
"I played Origin for 15 years. When you are involved in Origin for those three games for six or seven weeks, you come back to your club mentally drained. It can take the enjoyment out of club footy. Physically, you are fatigued. It just feels like you are going through the motions.
"But last year, I was working with 18-year-old kids at the Storm during the Origin period and loving it. I'd never felt so fresh.
"The last thing I would want to do is leave the Storm in the lurch as far as my intentions for next year. I've got that feeling and passion back again."
ROCKED by Queensland's 2-1 series loss to NSW last year, coach Walters has made changes. He has injected fresh blood to his coaching staff in the form of recently-retired Maroons greats Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Justin Hodges.
Two years ago, Smith revealed he had ambitions to one day coach Queensland. While he accepts he has a busy playing schedule with the Storm, Smith says he is open to assisting Walters in a mentoring role.
"I do miss playing Origin but then I don't in some ways, if that makes sense," Smith said with a laugh.
"I would never knock back the opportunity to help the Maroons.
"It would be hard to do a lot of coaching while I'm still playing and the Queensland guys are in camp. Melbourne don't stop training during the Origin series, but I'm always available for Kevvie.
"If he wants to call me and pick my brain about certain things and get my opinion on Queensland, I'm always happy to give him my advice.
"Whether he takes it is his prerogative, but I'm always happy to help the Maroons out."
THE NRL'S IMAGE
AS the code's most powerful and respected playing voice, Smith is fed-up. He is sick of the unsavoury headlines created by off-field assaults and sex scandals and is determined to drive cleaner, more ethical standards of behaviour among NRL players.
During a phone call with NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg last month, Smith backed the governing body's implementation ofthe no-fault, stand down policy.
"I love the game, I don't like to see what it's gone through ... getting hammered the way it has," he says.
"We have the best (sporting) product in Australia in my mind, but I'll be honest, our image has taken a hit over the off-seasonand the pre-season.
"At what stage is the playing group going to get the message if we sit on our hands and do nothing? I made that pretty clearwhen I spoke to Todd Greenberg.
"I said to Todd, 'Any players that are caught up in any serious criminal offences, then they need to face the music'.
"I don't think anyone in our squad (at Melbourne) has filmed (X-rated) videos. If they have, well they haven't passed it tome because they would know what my reaction would be.
"I've made it clear to my playing group where I stand on this issue and what's acceptable and what's not. If you look at ourtrack record at the Storm, we have a good record with our players and I'd like to maintain that.
"I don't want to see another off-season like this again. We have to make smart decisions ... but the only people who can changeit are the players."