It seems almost everybody in Australia has paid tribute to Cameron Smith in the past week however none did it better than Craig Bellamy last night.
It was 15 years ago that a young, scrawny hooker encountered a hard-nosed, rookie coach out on the training fields at Storm HQ.
Now they stand side by side as arguably the greatest captain-coach combination in rugby league history.
After watching Smith steer Melbourne to yet another win, the 252nd of his career, Bellamy used the post game press conference to pay homage to the new NRL games record hooker.
“Who would have thought that skinny little hooker 15 years ago, would come to a Club that is five years old and break the record for most number of games in the NRL?’ Bellamy said.
“If someone had of said that to me when I first met him, you would have been rolling around on the ground laughing.
“We are extremely proud at Melbourne that he has done it here. What he has done for our Club has been quite remarkable.
“You think how much more can he improve? But he turns up each pre-season with something he is looking to get better at. I think physically he can play on for another three, four or five years perhaps.”
Smith was presented with his playing jersey by his father prior to the Captain’s Run on Friday.
The Storm coach also got up to say a few words. Given he had overseen almost the entirety of Smith’s career and in that time became an NRL great in his own right, it was fitting to do so.
However in a testament to his humility – Bellamy thought quite the opposite.
“I just felt really inadequate, me standing up there making the presentation to the player that has played the most NRL games in history,” he said.
“I’ve been following this game since I was four years old, I think it would have been appropriate if a guy like Clive Churchill or Jack Gibson could have presented his jumper to him, that is how big of an occasion it is.”
“It is surreal that I have coached this kid of 15 years and he has played the most NRL games ever, that is hard for me to believe.”