Cameron Smith could ease Melbourne’s hooker headache and extend his career three more years by becoming a Super League halfback, Andrew Johns says.
And a sneak preview is expected to happen on Thursday night, with Smith to play as a No.7 when the Storm face the Roosters.
It is unclear if Smith, 37, will retire after this season despite initial expectations that he would. He remains arguably the NRL’s best player, defying all logic after 418 first grade games and 102 representative matches (Test, Origin, All Stars).
Yet if Smith played on in the NRL, the Storm would get a full-blown migraine when it came to their hooker position.
New Zealand Test rake Brandon Smith has patiently waited for his chance to start at No.9, only for Harry Grant to stamp himself as a future rep player while on loan at Wests Tigers. Even without Cameron Smith in the mix for next season, Melbourne would face tough choices.
Johns told Wide World of Sports that Smith could make things easier for his club by heading abroad, while extending his iconic career without joining an NRL rival.
“If he went to England, for big money over there, to play halfback, he could play for another two to three years,” Johns said on Freddy and the Eighth.
“Good experience for the family, then he’s not going to another club [in the NRL], he’s going to England.
“Imagine what he’d do for Super League, that promotion of him playing away at all the other teams; the grounds would be packed.
“He could play halfback; he could play with a cigarette in his mouth.”
Smith has achieved everything in rugby league while playing hooker, for Melbourne Queensland and Australia. He has mastered a user-friendly version of the game late in his career, running judiciously so that he’s rarely tackled and deftly absorbing contact in defence.
Yet he still makes a mountain of tackles defending in the middle, something that he could avoid as a halfback. He already plays first-receiver at times for Melbourne and runs the game in a fashion akin to a top No.7, whether he’s at dummy-half or one-out.
Smith is guaranteed to join Johns as an Immortal once his career ends, but perhaps that’s still some way off. Should he play on in England, he would have the chance to push his career to age 40 and nearly 600 top-flight games.
“Cameron Smith’s happy with the day-to-day of being a rugby league player, I don’t know why on earth he’d retire,” NRL great Brad Fittler said on Freddy and the Eighth.
Smith retired from representative football early in 2018, before that year’s Origin series. He played 56 Tests for the Kangaroos and made 42 Maroons appearances, plus four for the NRL All Stars.
He will lead Melbourne (4th) into a heavyweight NRL clash against the Roosters (3rd) on Thursday night at Suncorp Stadium, after the Storm were forced out of Victoria by heightened COVID-19 restrictions.