Tributes as former Australia RL captain Cameron Smith hangs up boots
England Rugby League led the tributes to former Australia captain Cameron Smith after he called time on his distinguished career.
The 37-year-old hooker, who had been Melbourne Storm’s captain since 2006, completed a remarkable 19th NRL season with a memorable Grand Final triumph over Penrith in his last match in October but only announced his retirement 24 hours before the start of the 2021 season.
Speaking at the unveiling of a statue of himself and former team-mate Billy Slater at AAMI Park, Smith said he wrestled with the idea of playing on and felt fit enough but made the decision a week ago to hang up his boots and spend more time with his family.
“I spent a few months in Queensland with the family and had a good opportunity to think about my future,” he said.
“When I look back on my career, I’ve been very fortunate to be part of such a wonderful organisation and it felt like the right time to finish, off the back of what was a very successful season last year.
“I couldn’t have asked for more than finishing with a premiership at a club I’ve played my entire career with.
“It gives me the opportunity to enjoy the next chapter of my life. Hopefully it will involve rugby league in some capacity but the most important thing is I get to spend quality time with my wife and three children.”
Smith bows out as the NRL’s record holder for most career games (430) and most career points (2,786), having become the first player to register 300 NRL victories.
Such was his durability, Smith missed only 15 games throughout his career and won two Dally M Medals as player of the year and two Golden Boot awards as international player of the year.
He was part of a record 11 State of Origin series victories for Queensland, including eight in a row between 2006 and 2013, and won two World Cups and three Four Nations crowns with the Kangaroos among 56 Test appearances.
England RL tweeted: “Good luck to @Kangaroos great @CamSmith9 following his retirement from Rugby League. Always a tough and respected foe of #EnglandRL down the years!”
Melbourne chairman Matthew Tripp said: “Cameron is a once-in-a-generation footballer and role model, not only for all Storm and NRL players now and in the future, but for all sportsmen and women.
“There is no doubt that without Cameron at the Storm, we wouldn’t have experienced the outstanding level of success that we have over his time at the club.
“He has a list of achievements that will be almost impossible to match.”