Suncorp swansong: Smith set to call time on NRL career
Cameron Smith will announce his retirement within a fortnight.
That is the view of leading figures at the Storm, who are privately preparing for the Melbourne champion to say farewell to Suncorp Stadium in next week's preliminary final.
Debate over Smith's future has raged for nine months but high-powered Storm bosses believe their skipper will not be at the club next season and is gearing up for a premiership lap-of-honour in the NRL grand final on October 25.
Often pilloried as selfish, Smith has been so selfless he has asked Melbourne officials if the incessant speculation over his plans are destabilising the Storm's premiership charge.
Smith made his Origin debut at Suncorp Stadium in 2003. Seventeen years later, his parents and extended family will be at the home of Queensland rugby league next week to share in what is tipped to be Smith's Suncorp finale.
The 37-year-old remains tight-lipped but Storm executives have already discussed contingencies for life after Smith.
Melbourne chairman Matt Tripp believes the NRL's most-capped player has potential as a board member. Failing that, the Storm are open to the 428-game icon playing a consultancy role if he relocates to Queensland with his wife Barb and three children next year.
Smith has played 55 career games at Suncorp, including his Queensland debut in 2003, a total of 20 Origin games and nine Tests for Australia.
Key Storm insiders believe his 56th game at Suncorp next week will be his final NRL match on Queensland soil before retirement.
Smith's father, Wayne, will attend next week's grand final qualifier and says his son is ready to put family before football after 18 years in Melbourne.
"This could be his last ever game at Suncorp," Smith Snr said.
"It's been a great ground for him, it's where he made his Origin debut, so it will be quite emotional for all us to think this may be his farewell to Suncorp.
"To be honest, Cam has come to the time in his life where his kids are growing up and he owes it to his kids to spend more time with them.
"It is weighing heavily on Cam ... the pressures on his family.
"Earlier this year, Cam's son (Jasper) played his first game on the Gold Coast and he wasn't able to be there because the Storm were in lockdown on the Sunshine Coast.
"Because of the nature of the industry, he has missed on a lot of things with his kids, like a lot of NRL players.
"I can't see Cam playing for anyone else, he wouldn't want to play against Craig Bellamy (Storm coach).
"That's why I think he will put the cue in the rack. But with Cam, you can never predict what he will do."
News Corp understands Smith has sold his Melbourne home. Smith and his wife have purchased a new house on the Gold Coast, with their children enrolled next year at Marymount College at Burleigh Waters.
Smith was linked to the Titans and Broncos earlier this season but the former Queensland Origin skipper wants to finish as a one-club legend.
Storm football chief Frank Ponissi said Smith doesn't want the fanfare of a retirement announcement during the finals.
He claims the skipper personally asked Ponissi if Smith's secretive approach - and the potential impact for hooking understudies Brandon Smith and Harry Grant - was affecting the team.
"I've had a couple of chats with him and he has asked me if it has been a distraction around the team. It's not at all," he said.
"Whilst he was very proud of becoming the first player to reach 400 games last year, all the attention was a bit overwhelming for him. Then we had the hoo-ha about the (diamond) ring (the gift from the NRL for Smith's wife).
"The comments about him being selfish are so far off the mark. It's actually the reverse of it.
"If he was selfish we would be doing big press conferences and announcements. That could not be further from the truth.
"He's been very conscious and asked if there's been any distractions. I've had one or two chats and assured him the boys are focused on this season and nothing is worrying them."
Originally published as Suncorp swansong: Smith set to call time on NRL career