Cameron Smith is not the NRL's GOAT according to Paul Crawley. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)
Cameron Smith is not the NRL's GOAT according to Paul Crawley. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Smith claim ‘an insult’ to the game

Cameron Smith copping fire from NSW during grand final week is nothing new - and this year the Melbourne Storm skipper is having to hear he's not as good as everyone says he is.

Daily Telegraph journalist Paul Crawley has taken a stand against calling Smith the greatest player rugby league has seen - an attribute that has stuck in recent seasons after he set records for the most games played and points scored in NRL history.

"It's nothing against Cameron Smith personally," Crawley told NRL360. "But I actually think it's a bit of an insult to 112 years of rugby league history that we constantly say that he's the best.

"I can remember when Wally Lewis retired, he was the greatest of any generation I'd seen. Then along comes Andrew Johns, JT (Johnathan Thurston), Bobby Fulton, and the great St George days where they were amateurs - (Graeme) Langlands, (Johnny) Raper, (Reg) Gasnier, Artie Beetson, Clive Churchill, and Dally Messenger.

"Every generation has its best, Cameron Smith is the best of his time. But I don't think anyone can categorically say that he's the best of all time."

Crawley said Smith's lack of flair and highlight reel plays put him behind other greats.

"He doesn't put me on the edge of my seat when I watch him play," Crawley added.

Cameron Smith will have to keep playing to convince Crawley. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Cameron Smith will have to keep playing to convince Crawley. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

"When you watched Joey (Johns), it was exhilarating.

"In 2005 when he came back and won NSW that Origin series, what he did on the field it was like he was a magician. It was like watching a beautiful painting.

"Rugby league is not just about how long you've played or what your career record says."

Ironically it was actually Johns who famously declared Smith the greatest ever when he broke the career games record previously held by Darren Lockyer in a banner 2017 season that saw him win his second Dally M Medal, second NRL premiership and the world golden boot award.

"I think he's the best, I think he's the very best," Johns said.

"I didn't understand footy that well but I sat as a young fan and hated what Wally Lewis used to do to us in State of Origin.

"Wally will always be the greatest player ever to play Origin, but for me I think Cameron Smith is the greatest player ever.

"He plays in the toughest position, he plays 80 minutes, he doesn't get injured and just his attention to detail, the way he sees the game, we all have a laugh about his body and how he's not ripped up but he's a footy player.

"You can see he's so smart. He literally is a couple of tackles ahead of other players. He uses the ball, he's always got it two hands, he waves it around and defenders are mesmerised by it. They sit there and look at the ball, they get stuck in the mud, they get on their heels and then he leaves them.

"He's not the strongest, he's not the fastest, but he's the smartest and for me the greatest player to ever play the game."

Is Thurston or Smith the best of their era? (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Is Thurston or Smith the best of their era? (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Adding to Crawley's claims of recency bias, Johns' comments came not long after many conversations were held about Thurston being the greatest ever after he led the Cowboys to a breakthrough premiership.

One poll ran at the time saw Thurston claim 69 per cent of a vote on who was the greatest league player ever, ahead of Johns (12 per cent), Lockyer (7 per cent) and Lewis (5 per cent).

Smith wasn't even an option on a list that also included Raper, Gasnier, Churchill, Alfie Langer and Mal Meninga.

Back in 2008, Rugby League Week named its best players of the past 30 years with Johns coming out on top ahead of Lewis and Brad Fittler in third.

Originally published as Smith claim 'an insult' to the game

In 2008, Johns was named the greatest player of the past 30 years by Rugby League Week, ahead of Lewis. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
In 2008, Johns was named the greatest player of the past 30 years by Rugby League Week, ahead of Lewis. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)


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