Slater takes swipe at Smith dressing-room story

Storm legend Billy Slater has hit out at a story claiming to prove a ruthless streak in Cameron Smith, with the champion hooker's legacy increasingly being debated as a decision on his future nears.

Having shared dressing rooms with him for well clear of a decade for the Storm, Queensland and Australia, few players know Smith better than Slater.

After hearing hundreds of the 37-year-old skipper's pre-game rev ups, an anecdote shared by Fox Sports chief NRL reporter James Hooper in his 'Jimmy Brings' column for the website clearly didn't compute.

Cameron Smith alongside Kangaroos teammate Billy Slater at the 2017 Rugby League World Cup.

Quoting a tweet promoting the story this afternoon, Slater wrote: "I've played a couple of games with this guy and been apart (sic) of a few pregame speeches and not once have I heard Cam make it about him. Let his legacy find its place instead of trying to create it for him."

Slater's response casts doubt on a dressing room speech that, according to Hooper's column, was delivered during the 2017 World Cup.

Smith led that side to a tense 6-0 victory in a hard-fought final at Suncorp Stadium against a well-drilled England side coached by Wayne Bennett.

Playing a starring role in the tournament, with five tries to his name, was Billy Slater, who wore the No.1 jersey throughout his last major tournament for Australia.

Slater would have been in the dressing room when Smith gave the speech quoted in Hooper's story, with the skipper purportedly telling his team: "None of you c---s better let me down today."

The column is not presented as a slight on Smith, with Hooper comparing Smith's leadership to Michael Jordan or Andrew Johns "which explains why success has followed Smith everywhere he's been".

It concludes: "The other testament to how good a player Smith is - try and find a player who didn't want to play with him."

Yet Slater's response points to frustration from those close to Smith about the way in which the Storm skipper has been painted as selfish by some sections of the media over the last month.

There is a broad view in NRL circles that Smith is still one of the best players in the game and could play at least another season if not more if he decided that he'd like to go on.

However, a delay in an announcement as he considers three options; whether to retire, play on for the Storm, or move back to south-east Queensland to finis his career with either the Broncos or the Titans has been covered almost obsessively.

It's become a case of deja vu with Storm coach Craig Bellamy last year warning that Smith might be driven out of the game by negative commentary as he weighed up a potential retirement call for the first time.

Smith left it until after the season had finished before inking a one-year extension and the story is taking a similar trajectory this year.

In recent weeks the negative commentary around Smith has ramped up again due to what's resting on his decision.

If Smith decides to play on in 2021 it will trigger a clause in the contract of the kid many see as his heir to the throne, Harry Grant, who has been a huge hit in his first full season of first grade on a loan deal with the Wests Tigers.

In a twist of fate, the Storm and Tigers clash this weekend, pitting the master vs the apprentice with Grant's future every bit as clouded as Smith's.

Harry Grant interview Round 18

Should Smith decide to play on, Grant will have a long list of suitors jostling for his services, with Kiwi hooker Brandon Smith also likely to become a target for poachers given the years he has already spent biding his time on the bench.

It's for that reason more than any other that Smith's call on his future carries so much weight for the Storm and the rest of the NRL landscape, which explains why speculation is at fever pitch.

No matter what call he makes, Smith will go down in the history books as possibly the greatest player to lace on a boot, and his long-time teammates like Slater will ultimately be responsible for helping shape his legacy with the stories they share of stirring dressing room speeches and improbable on-field deeds.

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