The thought of Smith playing against the Storm by suiting up for the Broncos is anathema to the club. There is, however, an acceptable alternative to not playing another season in Melbourne, if only the ducks in the shooting gallery of the QRL and Broncos line up.
Kevin Walters will have to relinquish his position as Maroons State of Origin coach, beginning with the three games in November, if he is appointed coach of the Broncos.
Some former Origin greats see Smith as an assistant at the Maroons this year and occupying the position full time in 2021.
This scenario would reunify three of the players – Johnathan Thurston, Billy Slater and Smith – who contributed to Queensland’s spectacular run of success, winning eight consecutive series between 2006 and 2013.
The chemistry of the Maroons has never been quite right since Walters omitted Slater from the opening game of the 2017 series, upsetting some of the senior players.
NSW’s subsequent success the past two years has meant the Maroons haven’t been able to paper over the cracks and some see a Smith-Thurston-Slater triumvirate as promoting the next generation of Queensland players.
Young coaches seem to succeed in Origin.
Brad Fittler has won his first two series with NSW, while Mal Meninga was in charge during Queensland’s run of success.
Both had formerly failed at club level – Fittler with the Roosters and Meninga at the Raiders – but this merely reflects that club and representative coaching are different beasts.
Bellamy, arguably the most successful club coach these past two decades, failed in his three Origin campaigns for NSW, admitting it was only in the final year that he “got” Origin.
Nobody “gets” Origin better than Smith, winning the Wally Lewis Medal for best player four times, in 2007, 2011, 2013 and 2016.
Should the QRL resurrect Wayne Bennett – a coach successful at club and representative level – for the November series, it could unite him briefly with Smith, who Bennett chose for his first Origin match, the third game of 2003.
But if Smith signs with the Broncos for 2021, it won’t be with Bellamy as coach.
Bellamy has never broken a contract and is adamant he will finish in 2021 with Melbourne.
A campaign by a pair of agents to present a Bellamy-Smith package to the Broncos was predicated on Bellamy not having a manager and designed to land a lucrative commission.
It was never going to succeed, even before Storm chairman Matt Tripp sent out a “hands off message”.
Tripp has followed it up with an even stronger one, saying he wants to sign Bellamy to a multi-year contract, not necessarily as head coach.
“Craig can be Storm head coach for as long as he decides, but if he opts to retire at the end of next year, I want him to advise on his successor and mentor him and work with the assistants,” Tripp said. “I would like his advice on the streaming process of whoever we bring into the club because he is such as good judge of character. I want him here long term to empower the best culture in Australian sport.”
Smith is destined to move up a floor in the department store of history, past Invincibles and Immortals to Unsurpassables.
As a record breaker, he has overturned the sport’s actuarial tables and the Storm will respect whatever decision he makes.
Should he choose coaching, or retire with Bellamy at the Storm in 2021, the history of the best club coach-captain duo would be preserved.
Roy Masters is a Sports Columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.