Rugby league great Cameron Smith retires after 19 seasons

By DENNIS PASSA 10 March 2021, 12:00AM

Many great sportspeople retire and later have statues erected in their honor. National Rugby League star Cameron Smith turned the tables on that scenario on Wednesday when he officially ended a record-filled 19-season playing career while a statue of himself was unveiled.

The ceremony outside Melbourne Storm's home stadium came as the 37-year-old goal-kicking hooker retired after playing a record 430 games for the club. He's the only player in league history to go beyond 400. He made his debut in 2002 for the Storm, where he played his entire career.

Smith also played 42 matches for Queensland in the high-stakes and even higher-profile annual State of Origin series against New South Wales. He represented Australia in 56 matches, winning the World Cup with the Kangaroos in 2013 and 2017.

Fittingly, he led the Storm to the 2020 league title in his last match.

“I couldn’t ask for more than finishing with a premiership with a club I’ve played my whole career with,” Smith said while his statue and that of another Storm legend, Billy Slater, was unveiled. “I think I might just put my feet up for 12 months.”

Smith said relocating back to Queensland's Gold Coast with his family had helped him realise it was the right time to retire.

The Storm paid tribute to Smith for the “immeasurable contribution to our club on and off the field” and a legacy that “will be remembered in Melbourne forever.”

Smith was the consummate captain, leading the Storm for 327 matches, the Queensland Origin team for 21 and Australia for 33.

He made his NRL debut on April 13, 2002 and played his last game on Oct. 25 of last year, when Smith, as if anyone would have expected anything else, scored a try and kicked four goals to help lead Melbourne to a 26-20 over the Penrith Panthers in the championship match.

In addition to holding the record for most NRL appearances, he also has the most NRL points (2,786 from 48 tries, 1,295 goals and four field goals), most wins, 310; and most State of Origin match wins for Queensland, 26.

Playing in eight grand finals, Smith steered the Storm to previous NRL premierships in 2007, 2009, 2012 and 2017, although the first two titles were later stripped from the club for salary-cap breaches.

He was a four-time winner of the Wally Lewis Medal, the annual award given to the State of Origin player of the series.

The Storm’s season-opening NRL match against South Sydney in Melbourne on Thursday will be the first time Smith has not appeared for the club in the opening round of a season since 2003.

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More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

By DENNIS PASSA 10 March 2021, 12:00AM
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