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The burning question following league legend Cameron Smith’s retirement from rep football is who will referee Origin 1?
Not only has Smith been one of the greatest players of the 13-man code, but the way he’s handled the whistleblowers has made him the complete footballer.
When the faithful talk rugby league in the future, Smith will be mentioned in the same breath as Graeme Langlands, Reg Gasnier, Wally Lewis, and Johnathan Thurston.
It’s not only his crystal-clear passion for the game, but his incredible ability to play off the top shelf every time he strapped on his boots.
And that’s a lot of strapping. Try 59 Kangaroo caps, 42 Origin, and 368 NRL games for the Storm and rising – the vast majority of them as captain.
To put those stats in perspective for Smith, who turns 35 next month:
Most Kangaroo caps
59 – Darren Lockyer
56 – Cameron Smith
46 – Mal Meninga
45 – Graeme Langlands
45 – Petero Civoniceva
42 – Cameron Smith
37 – Johnathon Thurston
36 – Allan Langer
34 – Darren Lockyer
33 – Petero Civoniceva
368 – Cameron Smith
355 – Darren Lockyer
350 – Terry Lamb
349 – Steve Menzies
347 – Corey Parker
Most NRL points
2418 – Hazem El Masri
2267 – Cameron Smith
2176 – Andrew Johns
2114 – Johnathan Thurston
2107 – Jason Taylor
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But those amazing stats don’t tell the whole story.
Smith was adamant in the people he thanked at the packed media conference.
“Ricky Stuart, Mal Meninga, and Craig Bellamy for their coaching, and especially my family for the way they have supported me, despite the many days I was never at home,” he said.
“Now it’s time to give back to them, I’ve missed far too my of my kids’ school and sporting functions.
“But the writing was on the wall after the last Origin series.
“I found that series far more taxing than any of the others because I was too exhausted both mentally and physically to play for the Storm, despite the four-day turnaround.
“That was never the case before, I always wanted to back up, but couldn’t last year.”
Smith admits he’s a terrible spectator, but he’ll get used to it – he has the rest of his life to do so, with his family beside him. And no doubt he’ll join the battalion of high-quality presenters in the Fox box before long.
But he leaves a huge hole on the field that will be impossible to replace at Test and Origin level. And it sure gives NSW a lift as they set out to stop the Origin rot, with Brad Fittler at the helm.