Selfish? Unnecessarily dramatic? Hurting his legacy, as many have argued, including former player Mark Geyer? Hardly, although it’s quite interesting to see Smith bend people completely out of shape by saying nothing.
He’s not saying anything to this column, failing to return carefully-worded text messages in search of the big questions: So, how was your Christmas? How are Barb and the kids? What are you doing with the rest of your life because I’m sick of people asking me a question I don’t know the answer to?
Smith’s manager, Isaac Moses, is mystified by the interest in his star client and wonders what all the fuss is about.
Come on, Isaac. That’s naive at best. People are genuinely interested in the playing future of arguably the greatest player of the modern era, whether he’s retiring or playing one last season for the Titans, who suddenly become a top-four team with Smith playing for them.
Smith loathes a media conference. We all know that. People at the Storm would chuckle when teammate Cooper Cronk held media calls to announce he’d extended a contract while Smith genuinely couldn’t understand why he had to answer questions from hacks in the press when he retired from representative football. He thought a simple media release would suffice.
It’s already been intimated to me that when Smith does make a decision, it will likely be announced via social media.
The delay, it seems, is because he doesn’t know himself. Smith is 37 years old but showed last year, to himself as much as anyone, that he’s still one of the best players in the competition.
He is more than capable of doing for the Titans what Brady, at 43, has done with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who meet the Chiefs in Monday morning’s Super Bowl.
Whenever we chatted about The End throughout last year, Smith said he was torn between knowing he still has the mind and body to compete at the highest level and the fear of getting halfway through a final season and realising he’d gone one season too long.
If Smith does decide to play, he won’t be playing at Melbourne. That much is clear. He’s not leaving anyone at the Storm in the lurch, although coach Craig Bellamy fuelled the fire on Sunday when he told our good friends at News Corp that Smith’s locker remains untouched at AAMI Park.
That little morsel suggested the club was keeping the porch light on in case their captain decided he wanted to play for them one more time.
Internally, the Storm have known for months Smith’s time in purple is over. They haven’t cleared out his locker out of respect. Until they fill the remaining three spots on their roster, there’s no need to box up his belongings and leave it at the front desk.
What they are waiting for is Smith to make an announcement about his future before announcing either Jesse Bromwich or Dale Finucane as captain for 2021.
The Titans are being as cagey about their interest in Cameron Smith as Cameron Smith is about anything to do with Cameron Smith.
The word before Christmas was that they were confident of signing him — but less so now with the start of the NRL season just 38 days away.
What’s relevant is that Titans can sign him, without having to move players on or loan them out to clear space in the salary cap.
Sources at the NRL have told this column that there is enough room to accommodate Smith at market value, which is determined by numerous factors including how much interest there has been from other clubs.
Smith was on about $800,000 plus external deals last year. The Titans are rumoured to have about $650,000 left in their cap for 2021.
So all that’s left is to sit and wait and watch his Instagram account, waiting for an answer that may never come. Maybe Smith will never announce his retirement, just because he doesn’t have to.
Perhaps Byron, a truck driver I ran into in Kings Cross on Monday morning, summed up the situation best.
“What’s Cameron Smith doing?” Byron, a Sea Eagles fan, asked. “Is he retiring?”
“No, idea. It’s becoming a soap opera, isn’t it?”
“Ha! When isn’t rugby league a soap opera?”
Byron, it must be said, makes a very salient point.
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Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.