After witnessing another masterclass from his inspirational captain, Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy fully appreciates why Cameron Smith is unsure whether or not to play on for another NRL season.
Smith maintains he’s still to make a decision on his playing future and it may not come until the end of the season.
Social media was abuzz that the champion hooker was going to announce his plans after Friday night’s clash with South Sydney.
But Bellamy suspects Smith’s match-winning role in the Storm’s 22-16 comeback victory may have only clouded the 37-year-old’s thinking and remains convinced the Immortal in waiting has another season in him.
“He’s a once-in-a-lifetime player,” Bellamy said after Smith had a hand in both of Melbourne’s two unanswered second-half tries.
“He’s finding it hard to make a decision by the sounds of it.
“But I won’t change my mind about what I’ve said all along. He deserves to have the time he wants.
“You’d like to think he’s getting close, and the club would ideally like a decision.
“But, at the end of the day, we won’t put any pressure on him.”
Smith admitted he still wasn’t ready to make a call.
“Every day that goes by I’m a bit closer to when that decision is going to be made,” he told Fox League.
“But from last week to today there’s still no news. All I’ve been concentrating on is my role with the footy side.
“I know everyone is waiting on it, and I said last week I want to make a decision as soon as I can for myself and my family and also for Melbourne but when that happens, it happens.”
Asked whether winning the 2020 premiership could affect his decision to call it quits after 19 seasons, Smith replied: “It would play a huge part.”
“But that’s not a definite for me. It’s something that every time I turn up day one of pre-season… that’s what we’re striving for, but it’s not a thing that will determine your future.
“But it will certainly feature in my decision if I haven’t made one by then.”
For the sake of pomp and ceremony, Bellamy hopes Smith makes the decision sooner rather than later, saying he’d hate for the all-time great not to receive the send-off he deserved.
“We just want to make it really enjoyable for him,” Bellamy said.
“I sort of put that to him the other day: ‘Again, not putting any pressure on you, but if you make that decision and it is to retire then we can really, really celebrate it because we know it is that’.
“But I think he is probably grappling between the enjoyment of it – it could be that to try and win a grand final and see what happens, I am not quite sure.
“But you’d hate to see him retire whenever our last game is.”
Bellamy says the Storm are making two plans for the 2021 season: one with Smith and one without, and will carry on with whatever unfolds.
There is, however, extra heat on the club with exciting youngster Harry Grant due to return from a one-year loan deal with Wests Tigers while the management of Kiwi Test rake Brandon Smith has reportedly told Melbourne they will look elsewhere if he can’t start at number nine next season.