Immortality beckons for Cameron Smith after the legendary hooker announced his retirement as the greatest rugby league player of all-time.
Smith ended months of speculation about his future on Wednesday when he confirmed he is hanging up the boots after a glittering career.
Upon announcing his retirement via the Melbourne Storm’s Twitter account, social media was flooded with praise for the star No.9 who will leave behind one almighty legacy following his dominant 430 game tenure at the top.
Cameron Smith is destined to be an Immortal, but how long before he joins rugby league’s most prestigious group? Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images.Source:Getty Images
The next step for Smith is joining league’s most exclusive club – the Immortals – which seems like a forgone conclusion given his remarkable record.
Smith retires holding several records – including being the most capped player in the game’s history.
He also played 42 Origins for Queensland and was a key figure in the Maroons’ eight consecutive series victories.
There are currently 13 Immortals – Clive Churchill, Reg Gasnier, Johnny Raper, Graeme Langlands, Bob Fulton, Wally Lewis, Arthur Beetson, Andrew Johns, Dally Messenger, Dave Brown, Frank Burge, Norm Provan, and Mal Meninga.
Meninga was the most recent inductee in 2018.
To be chosen as an Immortal is the greatest honour a player can receive, and it is widely considered that to earn the accolade he needs to have changed the game or had an impact beyond his career.
From on an on-field perspective, Smith has won everything and fits the criteria to become an Immortal given he also changed the way the game is played through his smarts from dummy half.
However, he could be forced to wait before being anointed an Immortal as the judges need to see what impact he has on the game in retirement like fellow inductee Meninga who went on to coach Queensland and Australia in retirement.
Newcastle, NSW, and Australian halfback Andrew Johns was named the eighth Immortal in 2012 after retiring from the game in 2007.
Whether Smith must wait that long before induction remains to be seen, but the consensus across rugby league is that the champion Melbourne hooker becoming an Immortal is inevitable.
It also begs the question: have we already seen enough from Smith’s player career to immediately induct him as rugby league’s 14th Immortal right now.
Many would argue yes, but will the judges agree given the precedent has been to wait for a player to be retired at least five seasons before inclusion in league’s finest collection of footballers.
Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen has no doubts that Smith is the NRL’s greatest ever player.
“Still can’t believe I got to take the field with the GOAT,” Papenhuyzen said.
“Deserves all the best in retirement. Hard to see his record ever being broken. Legend.”
Still can’t believe I got to take the field with the 🐐. Deserves all the best in retirement. Hard to see his record ever being broken. Legend! 🙌🏼 https://t.co/b3nRINjlNb
The Rugby League Players‘ Association also paid tribute to Smith’s stellar career via RLPA CEO, Clint Newton.
“On behalf of the RLPA and our members, I would like to congratulate Cam on a truly incredible contribution to the NRL and our game,“ Newton said.
“Like anything in life, your impact will be measured by where you started, where you finished, and the legacy you leave in-between.
“In Cam‘s case, he will go down as one of the greatest ever players in the game’s history because his ability to continually adapt as a player, person and leader are beyond any player I’ve experienced.
“The list of records and achievements are remarkable and show the dominant force he has been over a long period of time, both as a one-Club player and in the representative arena for Queensland and Australia.”
"On behalf of the #RLPA and our members, I would like to congratulate Cam on a truly incredible contribution to the #NRL and our game."
Congratulations @camsmith9! 👏https://t.co/aDZWdaRtha
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