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The motivating force that really drives Cameron Smith

"If he hadn’t played NRL, Cam would have clocked 400 games of rugby league somewhere, even if it was park footy."

That's Wayne Smith, hitting the bullseye about his son's 30-year love affair with the game of rugby league.

Cameron Smith is on the cusp of two stunning individual records, but his father Wayne has outlined why the pursuit of milestones doesn’t drive the Queensland legend.

A love of the game, a belief that he still has much more to give and a desire to assist the Melbourne Storm’s youthful brigade position the club as a force into the future are key reasons why the 35-year-old inked a two-year extension.

Cameron Smith, legend. Photo: NRL Images
Cameron Smith, legend. Photo: NRL Images

Smith is nine points away from surpassing Hazem El Masri's record of 2418 points and 13 NRL games away from bringing up the magic 400-game milestone.

When Wayne spent time with his son in Melbourne in November last year, it was not milestones that were on his mind as he mulled over his future.

It was his beloved Storm.

"Cameron loves the Melbourne Storm and wants to play for as long as he can,” Wayne said.

"When I asked him last year what the story was with the two years he said 'at the moment, between the ears and physically, I feel like I can go another two years so I want to give them the heads up so they can budget for two years'.

"He asked a lot of guys about the two years – players and teammates from all levels who have retired that he played with and against  - and to a man they all advised him to play as long as he feels that he can.

"Cam wanted to see how he pulled up after last year's grand final... he wanted to get that emotionally out of the way first to see how he felt, but he said to me that if he’s not contributing he’ll be the first one to go to Craig (Bellamy) and say that he’s done."

The future Immortal has shown every sign he won’t be "done" any time soon.

Cameron Smith in 2004. Photo: NRL Images
Cameron Smith in 2004. Photo: NRL Images

With Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk out of the picture, it is young rising stars in the spine such as Scott Drinkwater, Jahrome Hughes, Brodie Croft and Brandon Smith, that Smith wants to help reach their potential.

"Cam learned so much off Richard Swain when he was a young bloke at Melbourne and that is what he wants that to do with the young guys now," Wayne said.

"He did a piece in the Player’s Voice and it was like reading a conversation I had with him when he said he felt like the odd man out with all the young fellas around him.

"He is very mindful that as the old fella, if they see him push through it at training, then he is showing them the way to train.

"Footy-wise he understands they have a lot of young fellas in the team and he feels obligated to the club to help get those guys on the road and heading in the right direction, so they can understand what it takes."

Smith played a lot of junior football as a five-eighth with Logan Brothers and Wayne, his coach, said his ability to slot in as an extra playmaker this year would prove to be of great worth to the Storm, while Brodie Croft continued to develop as a half.

Cameron Smith in action for Melbourne Storm in 2018. Photo: NRL Images
Cameron Smith in action for Melbourne Storm in 2018. Photo: NRL Images

"Cameron’s strong suit has always been between the ears and tactically... they don’t try and put a lot of pressure on Brodie Croft at Melbourne. He’s not a go-to man yet but he will be as the year unfolds," Wayne said.

"They will target the young playmakers and Cameron’s time as a junior at No.6 will help him, which is why I didn’t want him just playing as a dummy-half dishing the ball off as a young bloke.

"As No.6, where he mostly played, he got a better view of the game, so when he goes into dummy-half and sees the defensive line in the NRL he better understands the right option on that play."

When Smith pulled the pin on his stellar representative career for the Maroons and Kangaroos last year it came as a bolt from the blue - even to his old man, but he understood why.

Cameron Smith in action for Queensland. Photo: NRL Images
Cameron Smith in action for Queensland. Photo: NRL Images

"I knew a couple of weeks before that he was considering it and it was a surprise because I knew how much he loved doing that," Wayne said.

"He said to me that he didn’t want to retire because he loved playing for Queensland and Australia, but he said 'the closer it got to the time, I started feeling tired thinking about not just the game, but the recovery and then playing for my club', while every other year he was jumping out of his skin and couldn’t wait to get into camp.

"He loves Melbourne and in 2017 he didn’t back-up very well from the Origin games... he had a couple off and he felt that hurt the club side a little bit."

As a Queensland-based father, Wayne has long been heartened by the fact that Bellamy was at the helm to guide his son through his formative years.

"Cameron learned his basic morals and ethics off his family, but there is a lot of growing up that you do between 19 and 25 and Craig was like a father figure and second dad at that stage of his life and a very good mentor for him," Wayne said.

"What Craig does is challenge them all the time and that is why Cameron and the better players at Melbourne are so consistent.. it is a case of not being happy with where you are.

"Craig taught him that reward comes after effort. As a kid I often spoke to him about not being comfortable. I’d ask him why world record holders in swimming and running break their own records and it’s because they aren’t just happy to be where they are.

"Can I be better? Can I give more?"

Along with his 387 NRL games, Smith has played in 56 Tests for the Kangaroos and 46 Origin games for the Maroons.

He has won the Wally Lewis Medal and Ron McAuliffe Medal four times each for best Origin player and Maroons player of a series respectively.

Twice Dally M player of the year and seven times Dally M hooker of the year, Smith has also won the Golden Boot award twice. Twice a World Cup winner as captain, he has also won 11 State of Origin series, six as skipper.

Tribute to Smithy

Through all that, Smith has not tired of the spoils of victory or the pleasure of playing in a team sport even when he loses. It is why you see him still in his jersey hours after a game, won or lost.

"That has never changed," Wayne grinned.

"He loves the game and the camaraderie that goes with it... most young blokes will play and if they don’t have to give the jersey back they will wear it for the rest of the day.

"Even today Cam will sit in the sheds and kick back in his gear for as long as he can.

"I reckon he thinks to himself 'this is the reward for all the effort during the week... this is pay day'. So he enjoys the feeling when they win. He savours the moment.”

Smith, famously tagged by good mate Matt Geyer as a footballer in an accountant's body, is not the strongest in the gym but he’s tough and has played through countless injuries.

Cameron Smith in action for the Kangaroos. Photo: NRL Images
Cameron Smith in action for the Kangaroos. Photo: NRL Images

That’s why he has lasted so long and missed so few games.

Incredibly, since 2003, Smith has played at least 23 NRL games each year apart from 2010 when he played 20 while missing a month with a dislocated elbow.

"Like a lot of blokes, he plays hurt and that sets a good example for the young blokes," Wayne said.

"It is about showing the young blokes that if you get a bump you play through it... he doesn’t lift massive weight in the gym and he reckons that has helped his durability and flexibility.

"He gets every last drop out of what he’s got physically. He doesn’t try and smash anyone because he knows he can’t…but he’ll pick and stick until the cavalry arrives."

Smith will continue his club career until the age of 37 if all goes to plan and as he does it will be with that seeming "force field" around him that only the best players of all time have.

Smith has the same time to make a play as anyone else, but he makes it appear like an eternity.

"It is like that old saying 'you can’t put in what God leaves out'," Wayne said.

"You’ve either got it or you haven’t when it comes to the Alfie stuff, the JT stuff and the Wally stuff.

"It's the same with Cam I guess. It is that sort of stuff you just can’t coach."