Storm legend Billy Slater even says he wasn’t sure Cameron Smith was going to retire in the offseason, dismissing the idea that his former teammate had deliberately pulled the decision.
“I’m pretty good friends with Cam and talk to him on a fairly regular basis. I know he’s been bumping into this decision for a while now,” but he told me before announcing it todaySlater told Wide World of Sports immediately after unveiling his statue alongside Smith outside AAMI Park.
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The full-back said there was no way Smith had drawn attention to his future as a player.
“Cameron Smith is the most selfless and humble person I have ever met. They are irrelevant people who say it, who have never been in his life and who have never had anything to do with it. with him, ”he said.
“For someone who has done so much for the game, he gets bad publicity – and once you hear it you can’t forget him. He has family and people who care about him and this stuff is uncomfortable for them to hear. ”
Slater added that there had been “a few things” over the past few months that gave him an idea that his former teammate had hung up his boots. He said he was glad Smith took all the time he needed.
“I’m glad he took the time to make the right decision – because you don’t want to change your mind in 12 months,” Slater said.
“As a player who has been through this for the last few years, I tried to give him as much advice as possible, but in the end it’s your decision.”
Slater said that while you never really lose the urge to gamble, there wouldn’t be a Michael Jordan-style return to the game for the 37-year-old whore.
“You never lose the passion of wanting to play football. It gives you something that nothing else can give you,” he said.
“Cam has been doing it for two decades, that’s all he knows since leaving school. It’s a really important decision to make and when you do, it’s final. difficult, and unless you’ve done that, you can’t put it in his shoes and understand how he’s feeling. “
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But what’s next for the NRL’s all-time gaming leader? Will he follow Slater in a media career, work at a club, or take a new path?
“There are so many parts of the game that Cameron could look to move into, whether it’s media, training or administration… guys like Cameron Smith the game needs them to stay,” Slater said. .
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“It’s really important for the evolution of the game for them to stay and pass that knowledge on, whether it’s to the players or the fans.
“The game will benefit from his persistence. I think his legacy will be what it will be, whether it’s on the pitch or what people know about him. It’s probably the greatest rugby league career we’ve had. never seen.”
The pair have now been immortalized with bronze statues outside AAMI Park.
“I was really proud to share this moment with him today,” Slater said.
“It didn’t hit home until I saw them up there, and I can’t express how proud I am of my contribution not only to the rugby league in Victoria, but also to the sport in Victoria in general.
“I know how much the Victorians appreciate their sport and to be up there in status in such a sporting district, I was truly honored.”
Slater also particularly thanked former teammate Cooper Cronk and former coach Craig Bellamy, adding that it would be “disrespectful” not to thank them on this day.
Just a few weeks ago in practice, Bellamy asked Slater what he thought the team would miss the most without Smith.
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“I really had a hard time answering it,” Slater said.
“He gives your team so much… one thing I’m sure is Cameron Smith has had more influence on his teams than any other player, regardless of level.
“He’s been so influential in the games he’s played for his team – it’s tough. Do you talk about his time in football, or his ball game, or his kicking game, or his leadership or his control of the game? ”
“There were so many elements of the game that he controlled, and it was better that he controlled it.”
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