Brandon Smith is one of the game’s true characters. A court jester with a level of honesty and a self-effacing wit that is both hilarious and at times cringeworthy.
Cameron Smith’s decision to retire brought down the curtain on an incredible career of a record 430 NRL games, 42 State of Origin matches and 56 Tests for Australia along with three premierships with Melbourne and two Dally M Medals.
The future Immortal informed Storm players and staff on Wednesday morning of his decision.
Smith’s impact at the Melbourne Storm was highlighted by the unveiling of his statue outside AAMI Park alongside fellow future Immortal Billy Slater.
Smith’s longevity and consistently high standards throughout his career have many experts believing he will go down as the greatest player to ever grace a rugby league field. The lack of injuries as well as an ability to guide and lift his teammates around him played a key role in Smith’s success at both club and representative level.
Speculation about Smith’s future had been constant during the off-season, and he admitted he had been contemplating the idea of playing one more season in Queensland.
“I had to wrestle with that decision,” he said. “Winning the premiership last year, I still felt good within myself and I still felt my form was good enough to play in the NRL, but once I spent quality time with my family, I knew it was the right time to finish.”
Smith’s unassuming nature and ability to step away from the spotlight in making this decision while surrounded by family demonstrated one of Smith’s greatest strengths: modesty. The modesty Smith showcased throughout his career would at times blend his influence in a game behind the skill and pace of fellow teammates like Billy Slater.
The athleticism and speed of the modern rugby league player is something Smith never possessed, but this lack of athletic prowess was made up for in quickness of thought and ability to read a game, which he constantly demonstrated over the length of his career.
His ability to spot holes for fellow players or space where no-one else could kept him ahead of the play regardless of the increased pace of the game.
The hole Smith leaves behind at both the Melbourne Storm and within the greater game of rugby league will never be filled. NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo reiterated the impact of Smith would be forever part of the rich history of the game as his defiance of age and science arguably has him leaving as still the best player in the competition.