Australian rugby league great Cameron Smith has had to deal with plenty of criticism throughout his lengthy career, but his father has revealed an All Blacks legend helped him when the heat got heavy.
Ahead of this year’s NRL Grand Final, where Smith could finally hang up his boots with the Storm, his father Wayne Smith spoke to the Australian about what – and who – has helped keep his son in the game for so long.
"What drives Cam and has always is that he never wants to let anyone down, his teammates especially," Smith Sr said.
Smith has played a record 429 NRL matches since his 2002 debut and also holds the all-time points-scoring record.
But in that time his legacy has been questioned by critics, much of which stems from his lack of transparency over how much he knew about the Storm’s 2010 salary cap scandal.
But Smith Sr said the hooker has had someone to talk to who has walked a similar path – former All Blacks captain Richie McCaw.
McCaw was connected to the Storm through his former manager Bart Campbell, who is a part-owner and ex-chairman at the Melbourne club.
According to the Australian, that connection has seen McCaw make multiple appearances at the Storm, such as before their Grand Final qualifier in 2017 and last year when he presented Kiwi player Kenny Bromwich with his jersey for his 150th game.
But McCaw was also there for Smith, passing on some advice last year when the 37-year-old was going through a particularly tough patch with his game.
“Last year when they were really giving it to him, Richie McCaw spoke to him,” Smith said.
“He said don’t worry about it, they did the same to him. Richie just said, ‘Keep your head down and keep doing what you do.'”
Smith has yet to announce whether he will retire after the grand final or play on 2021, but when he does eventually hang up the boots his father has no doubt it’ll be on his terms.
"He doesn’t want anyone to say to him, 'You didn’t have a dig today, mate.'
“That is what drives him, that he came off that field and didn’t leave anything out here. Not just for him, but for his teammates.”