Queensland and Australia captain and hooker Cameron Smith has called time on his stellar representative career with immediate effect, as of Tuesday. This means that, with the representative retirement of champion halves and good mates, Johnathan Thurston and Cooper Cronk, as of last year, both the Maroons and Kangaroos have lost three-quarters of their spine, with Billy Slater the surviving member of this much-vaunted spine. Moreover, the Maroons and Kangaroos have lost a primary goal-kicking option, with both JT and Smith calling time on the representative careers. Moreover, with Smith joining JT and Cronk into representative retirement, the Maroons lose over 100 games worth of experience in such crucial positions. However, whilst there will be a replacement for Smith, whether he completely fills his boots is another story. For now, we will focus on paying tribute to a great.
Cameron Smith may not have been the most liked player in the game by its fans. Some of the reasons include that he is perceived as having excessive influence over the game’s officials, by constantly being in their ears, trying to overturn a decision. Another reason is that when he is helping tackle an opposing player, he will apparently perform acts such as grappling, chicken wing etc. As such, it seems that unless you’re a Melbourne Storm and/or Queensland Maroons fan, you are more likely to have resentment towards Smith for such actions. However, there is a flip side. His supporters will counter that, by saying that he is a great leader and negotiator, and he is doing his team a favour by slowing the play-the-ball down. Therefore, it can be said that for the aforementioned qualities of Smith, he is a valuable asset to any team, meaning any player and/or supporter would love to have a player of such qualities in their team.
A quality player, and a quality leader
And since his debut for the Storm in 2002, he has proven his qualities as a player and leader on multiple occasions. His consistency and quality displays in the dummy-half position at the Storm saw him earn a call-up in the third game in the 2003 State of Origin series, which was actually a dead rubber, with that series having been won by NSW. However, Smith and his Maroons teammates would make a mockery of the Blues’ dominance, by totally obliterating them 36-6. Smith would actually score a try in that match, meaning he scored a try in his Origin debut. From his debut in that dead rubber, until his sudden retirement, Smith would become a mainstay for the Maroons, as he would play in all but one match, which was the first game in 2010, where he withdrew due to injury and was replaced by Matt Ballin.
In addition to Smith being a Maroon's mainstay, he was entrusted with the goal-kicking responsibility in the 2004 series, and would occasionally rotate with good mate, Johnathan Thurston, when JT made his Origin debut in 2005. JT would actually go on the record to say that Smith had allowed him to be the main goal kicker for Queensland, as his penchant for tackling would invariably lead to fatigue. Having said that, it is little wonder that any team with Cameron Smith in it has staunch defence, given how he leads by example in such an important facet of the game. Moreover, upon the great Darren Lockyer’s retirement in 2011, Smith would be appointed as Locky’s successor as captain of Queensland. And he carried on the success by Lockyer as captain with aplomb, with consistent displays and sensational leadership. This meant that he would win five of the six Origin series as captain, with his only blemish being the lost 2014 series.
As for Smith’s achievements for the national team, well it could be said that he had continued with his sensational displays for the Storm and Maroons onto the national stage. However, unlike Origin, Smith would not make his debut in a green and old jumper until the 2006 Tri-Nations series, where he would make his debut against New Zealand in a 30-18 victory. His first try at national level would be against the same team, this time the Kangaroos would demolish the Kiwis, 58-0. There are some similarities between Smith’s time in the national team to his time in the Maroons team, in that he would alternate with Thurston in the goal-kicking department, for the same reasons mentioned prior. He would also be appointed as Lockyer’s successor as Australian captain, after Lockyer’s retired in 2011.
Triumph and adversity
Whilst Smith would experience some disappointments with the national team, such as the lost Four Nations series tournaments of 2010 and 2014, as well as the 2008 World Cup tournament on home soil, there is minimal doubt that his triumphs on the national stage outweigh his disappointments. As well as winning most of the Anzac test matches against New Zealand, Smith would experience success in the Tri-Nations tournament of 2006, and the Four Nations tournaments in 2009, 2011 and 2016 (where he was the captain). More significantly, unlike his predecessor as skipper, Darren Lockyer, Smith would successfully lead the Kangaroos to World Cup glory in 2003 in the UK against New Zealand, and in 2017 at home against England. In the 2017 World Cup, Smith would be crowned with the Golden Boot award, which was a true reward for his phenomenal season that year at club, state and national level.
Therefore, with that in mind, Smith’s retirement means he departs from the Origin stage having played a record 42 Origin matches for a record 26 wins, and 21 games as captain (3rd behind Lockyer and the man they call the King, Wally Lewis). Moreover, Smith would be awarded 7 x Man of the Match awards, while being awarded the Wally Lewis Medal in 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2016 as the player of the aforementioned series. Moreover, Smith departs the national stage having played 56 tests for Australia for 49 victories, and 33 games as captain. Of the number of tests that Smith has played (including as captain), only Lockyer has played more tests and captained more games. Moreover, he leaves having successfully captained the Kangaroos to World Cup glory in 2013 and 2017, and Four Nations glory in 2016.
Undoubtedly the main beneficiaries of Smith’s immediate retirement are the Melbourne Storm, and even more importantly, his family. Smith had cited a desire to spend more time with his family as a major reason for his sudden retirement. Given that duties for the Origin and national teams entail a multitude of travelling, as well as backing up for your club only a few days later, it is very much understandable why Smith decided to call time on his representative career. And with his sensational and consistent displays at representative level, it’s safe to say he has thoroughly deserved his retirement. Love him or hate him, we wish him well until he retires completely from the game.
What are your best memories of Cameron Smith on the representative stage? Let us know in the comments below.