Smith set to play on in 2019

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NRL -

MAROONS skip­per Cameron Smith is set to shelve re­tire­ment plans and sign an­other NRL con­tract in a move that would make him the last man stand­ing of Mel­bourne’s Big Three.

Storm coach Craig Bel­lamy has re­vealed he ex­pects Smith to suit up for a re­mark­able 18th sea­son of NRL next year to help guide the club through the ex­pected re­tire­ment of cham­pion full­back Billy Slater.

Smith and Bel­lamy are both off-con­tract at sea­son’s end, but the Storm coach said the duo, who have worked to­gether for 16 years, will de­cide their fu­tures in­de­pen­dently.

It is un­der­stood Mel­bourne have de­vised a suc­ces­sion plan that in­cludes Smith play­ing on in 2019, pro­vid­ing lead­er­ship sta­bil­ity to com­bat the an­tic­i­pated re­tire­ment of Slater.

Vet­eran half­back Cooper Cronk stunned Storm bosses by join­ing the Roosters this sea­son, shat­ter­ing Mel­bourne’s Holy Trin­ity that in­cluded Smith and Slater. Smith played his 365th first-grade game against Bris­bane on Fri­day night and a 12-month ex­ten­sion will put him on track to be­come the first player in his­tory to reach 400 NRL matches.

Smith, who turns 35 in June, said in pre-sea­son that he was mind­ful of play­ing a year too long, but Bel­lamy be­lieves the Queens­land rake will wear Storm colours next sea­son.

“I reckon Cam has an­other year or two in him,” the Storm coach said.

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