‘No blood on my hands’: Smith confusion
The confusion around Cameron Smith's future in the game has been further clouded following Craig Bellamy's surprising retirement admission at the Dally M Medal.
Smith was named captain of the year, hooker of the year for the eighth time and finished second in Dally M voting behind the Sydney Roosters' James Tedesco.
Already a two-time winner of the award, it's an incredible achievement for a 36-year-old star.
But following the Melbourne Storm's preliminary final loss to the Roosters last Saturday, the all-time leader in points scored and games played admitted he might be done with the game.
When chatting to former teammate Billy Slater, the former Storm fullback asked if he'd go around for another year.
"I don't know mate, I'll have a think about it over the next few weeks and decide then," Smith said.
"I've said all along particularly over the past two or three seasons even though I'm getting on a bit and the end is near, I've been enjoying my football thoroughly. I'm playing a bit of a different style of football in the last couple of years now that we have a lot of younger inexperienced players and in a way, it's given me a new lease on life in footy.
"But a lot of things to think about mate, obviously the family's getting a bit older now with the three kids and there's a lot of things on. A lot of things to way up."
"Two or three weeks ago I was pretty confident he would play again next year," Bellamy said.
"But on Mad Monday and sometimes you are effected by a couple of drinks but perhaps he might not have been thinking that way.
"I think it is still up in the air to be quite honest, which is a little bit disappointing."
Smith has played a record 411 NRL games - all at the Storm - and has shown no signs of letting up this season.
He has another year left to run on his deal, with the option to play on in 2020 currently in his favour.
Speaking on Fox League's NRL360, the panel considered whether Bellamy's comments were part of the argument Smith was being pushed from the game.
Paul Kent is considered one of the more critical journalists of Smith after breaking the story on the NRL gifting Smith's wife Barbara a $15,000 ring to celebrate his 400th game.
Combined with the "rubbish on the face" incident, Smith has been under the microscope in Sydney in recent months.
The Daily Telegraph's Phil Rothfield said the combination of the Storm missing the Grand Finals and scrutiny the star is under may have Smith at breaking point.
"I think Cameron is not only fatigued, but he was stung by criticism rightly or wrongly this year more than a lot of people understand," Rothfield said.
"To win the minor premiership so convincingly and then get bounced out with two losses in the finals it is hurting, but I think criticism is part of it."
But The Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie floated the possibility that Bellamy's may be looking to get the media off Smith's back and said Kent may have "blood on your hands".
"There is no blood on my hands," Kent replied. "I have been critical of Cameron and I think rightly so. When I wrote the story about the ring that went to his wife Barbara that wasn't a criticism of Cameron. That was a criticism of the NRL for not declaring that they were spending money having declared all these other things they were spending money on.
"They hid that ring payment, so that could have gone to anyone and it was still a story.
"As for Cameron getting upset about grapple tackles or if it was a wing nut or whatever the fact is the player complained about it privately to his teammates and he said he felt pressure. The NRL sent him a concerning act notice.
"Cameron came out earlier in the year saying he should get his premierships back for the two years he got caught cheating when he won't declare he signed a second contract."
Ritchie said he believes Smith and Bellamy are in a funk after losing to the Roosters and would be back for 2020.
"Lets think clearly after Christmas with a clear head," he said. "I can't see how Cameron Smith, who has a fairly healthy ego would want to leave the game after a preliminary final loss at the SCG.
"He will want the fanfare. He will want the million dollars. He will be back next year."
But, speaking on Fox League's The Late Show with Matty Johns, the panel of legends including Johns, Gorden Tallis, Bryan Fletcher and Nathan Hindmarsh discussed when it was time to call it quits.
"I think Cameron beats to his own drum, that's one thing," Tallis said. "Sometimes when you've had a few beers, the truth comes out. Cameron's got nothing more to achieve and all it's going to do is tarnish his legacy and it's an unbelievable legacy and if he's had enough, he's had enough."
Fox Sports journalist James Hooper added it would be a big call for the Storm after they clear salary cap space to accommodate Smith with the like of Brodie Croft linked to the Broncos and Will Chambers reportedly set to head to Japanese rugby.
Johns said it would be a tough call for Smith as he continues to get older, having already played more games than any other player before him at the top level.
"He's the last bloke to turn up to training every year because he's done so many off-seasons but it's hard to keep climbing the mountain I can imagine for a bloke his age," Johns said. "Remember when you were playing 30-odd years of age, and you're driving on the team bus and you're watching families have picnics and you say 'that's where I'd rather be'. That's the first sign you're done."
Tallis said that was when he realised he was done.
- with AAP