How Smith delay risks derailing Storm
As the Cameron Smith retirement speculation drags on, the Melbourne skipper is being urged to make a decision one way or the other, for the sake of the club's future.
Smith has spent the last few months insisting he has no idea if he wants to play on or not, and didn't clarify the situation after Sunday's grand final win over Penrith.
Presumably confirmation either way will come in the coming weeks, before the Melbourne squad returns for pre-season training.
Smith is releasing an autobiography next month, which some have suggested is a sign he'll hang up the boots.
Smith's 2021 plans will directly impact at least two players, with Brandon Smith and Dally M Rookie of the Year Harry Grant both eyeing off the number nine jumper on a permanent basis. If Smith decides to play on, it's expected at least one of the New Zealand Test star or Grant would look elsewhere. Grant was loaned to the Tigers in 2020, but has insisted he'll be returning to Melbourne next season.
Leading sports journalist, and former Wallaby, Peter FitzSimons, argues that Smith needs to make the decision sooner rather than later.
"You've been a great servant of the past, and you've been a great servant of the present, you're the grand final winning captain, to be a servant of the future you need to make a call," he told Wide World of Sports' Five Minutes with Fitzy.
"They're (Melbourne) trying to sort themselves out.
"Andrew Webster, who's written the book, says he simply doesn't know. He says that Cameron Smith doesn't know."
Smith is undoubtedly still at the peak of his powers, the 37-year-old playing a leading role in yet another Melbourne premiership.
The fact he's still such an influential figure in the game is one reason he's reluctant to make the call, with FitzSimons raising the example of former St George halfback Billy Smith, who was a member of the great Dragons side towards the end of their 11 straight premierships in the 1950s and 1960s.
Smith also played for NSW and captained Australia, but finished his career in reserve grade in 1977.
"It's very rare for a sportsperson to go out at their absolute height. Billy Smith …. was a great," FitzSimons said.
"He kept playing well past his best, and people said they wanted to remember him at his best.
"And Billy Smith said, 'That may be what you want, but I love playing,' and if that is his view you've got to respect that.
"But either way, make the call."
Smith, for all his achievements, remains something of a polarising figure among fans, particularly those who recall the Melbourne salary cap scandal, or who believe he has undue influence on referees.
"Even now, when I see Wally Lewis in the Channel Nine corridor, there's something in me that says 'That's Wally Lewis,'" FitzSimons said.
"There'll never be another Wally Lewis. But Cameron Smith has had a career at least the equal of Wally Lewis but was never loved like Wally Lewis.
"He seems to be a straight down the line guy, the public at large likes him, more or less respects him and admires what he's done, but he doesn't grip people the way the likes of Wally Lewis, or Andrew Johns (did)."