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Richard Swain or Cameron Smith?

Melbourne Storm's international star at the time who had taken the Club to its maiden premiership or a little-known kid from Brisbane with two NRL games under his belt.

That was the difficult decision weighing on the Storm hierarchy towards the back end of the 2002 season.

It was Smith's debut season in the NRL and he managed two appearances early on in Rounds five and six but was playing predominantly in reserve grade for Norths Devils.

He was first spotted by then Storm coach Mark Murray and Anthony Griffin, who would go on to coach the Brisbane Broncos and Penrith Panthers.

"Cameron was this young kid was from Brisbane who played halfback but he had No.9 written all over him," Storm founder and inaugural CEO John Ribot said.

"From our point of view we had Richard Swain there at hooker who played for New Zealand. It got to a stage where (Cameron) had his first year with us but Richard was still there so we had to make a tough decision about which way we were going to go."

Swain was Melbourne's original No.9 and the year before he had become the first player in NRL history to make 1,000 tackles in a single season.

To top it off he was an outstanding person and a wonderful leader that help build the Storm culture that still thrives to this day.

Yet there was no denying the enormous potential of his understudy.

"All the recruitment people within the Club who identified Cameron just knew he was potentially a long-term player for us," Ribot said.

"Cam just had something about him. There was an aura about him and you just saw that he was going to be one heck of a player.

"It got to a stage where a lot of Club's realised he was a good player so there was a bit of pressure on us to make a decision.

"In negotiations we spoke to both of them but there was only room for one. It was a tough call but we went Cameron's way."

Once decision was made public it was not a popular one.

Swain was extremely popular with the purple army, who wanted to know why one of their favourite players would not be at the Club any longer.

"I remember after a game I had to go an explain to our supporters why we would possibly think of letting Richard Swain go," Ribot said.

"I just tried to explain to them to believe what we were about because we just thought he is going to be something really special."

'Really special' turned out to be an undersell.

Cameron Smith has gone on to play the most games in NRL history (378), with the most win (268), captained more games than any other player in Premiership history (275) and has been named Storm Player of the Year and Dally M Hooker of the Year seven times.

It cannot be understated though the impact Swain had on Smith's career during that debut season, helping him to lay the foundation to become arguably the greatest player the game has ever seen.

Acknowledgement of Country

Melbourne Storm respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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