Mal Meninga and Cameron Smith after winning Origin III in 2015. Picture: Adam Head
Mal Meninga and Cameron Smith after winning Origin III in 2015. Picture: Adam Head

Why Cam is the first man I’d pick in my team

IT is only a matter of time before Cameron Smith is named an Immortal.

He will be remembered as one of the greatest players in history, certainly the greatest hooker to play the game in the modern era.

To become the first player to reach 400th NRL games, when he runs out against the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday, is an incredible achievement.

It is a testament to his work ethic, competitiveness and those loved ones around him who helped him along his journey.

The best way to begin to describe what makes Cameron so special is that if I was starting a new club and I had to pick my first player, it would be him.

He has great leadership qualities, plays in a position that touches the ball more than anyone else, his ability defensively in the middle is outstanding, he scores points, his kicking game is excellent and he is highly intelligent.

But he is more than that. He is not just a guy you can build a team around. He is a guy you can build the culture of an organisation around. He is the complete package.

Meninga and Smith together at the launch of the 2017 World Cup. Picture: Jono Searle
Meninga and Smith together at the launch of the 2017 World Cup. Picture: Jono Searle

His wife Barb and his children Jada, Jasper and Matilda deserve praise as well. They are a great family who have helped keep his feet on the ground.

Cameron has huge respect for the game and the values that have been instilled in him by his parents are something special. He understands his standing in the game and the responsibilities that come along with it and I think all that comes from his upbringing.

It has seen him grow into one of the most influential players to ever play the game on the field and off the field.

But it hasn't always been that way. I never saw him play much as junior but even back then as a young kid lacing up his boots at Logan Brothers I used to hear a lot about his ability.

He is a player who has always had a lot of time on his hands and made great decisions.

Smith as a Logan Brothers junior.
Smith as a Logan Brothers junior.

That is one of the common threads with all the great players, is their ability to make the right decisions at crucial moments and come up with the right play at the right time.

It wasn't until he joined the Melbourne Storm system that I first saw him play, rising through the ranks at Norths Devils alongside a bunch of other young talents by the names of Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Cooper Cronk.

You could see then what quality players they were but there was no way of knowing exactly how good they were going to be.

He played a handful of games for the Storm in 2002 before going on to make his State of Origin debut in 2003, in Game Three.

When I first met him in Origin the thing that stood out most for me was how competitive he was but also how composed and calm he was around the team.

He doesn't like being on the sidelines and hates being replaced.

Smith in action for the Storm against the Bulldogs in 2002.
Smith in action for the Storm against the Bulldogs in 2002.

Even on Kangaroos tours, where we try to give everyone a game, it is very difficult to say to him that he needs to have a spell. He is one of those players who want to be in the team all the time.

It is that same tenacity, which has put him on the path to what was once thought impossible, the magic 400-game barrier.

I would like to congratulate Cameron and his family on the achievement and look forward to the day when he takes his rightful place as an Immortal of our game.

News Corp Australia


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