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Significance behind Earl, Smith drought-breakers

Shortly after he'd touched down in the north-west corner of Cbus Super Stadium on Sunday, photos emerged on social media of Storm teammates pointing Sandor Earl to the try line.

Given it had been close to six years between the 23rd and 24th tries of his NRL career it was the direction the 29-year-old may have found helpful.

When Melbourne legend Cameron Smith sauntered across the stripe for the first time in more than 12 months in the 401st game of his career it took him one step closer to perhaps the only rugby league feat that still eludes him.

The record books will show that Sandor Earl and Cameron Smith scored tries in a 38-18 defeat of the Titans on July 21, 2019 but to the men themselves they represent so much more.

For Earl, banned for four years in the wake of the peptides scandal dubbed "the darkest day in Australian sport", his first NRL try since round 23, 2013 was just the latest in a run of milestones.

Match Highlights: Titans v Storm

In round five, his debut for the Storm signalled an NRL return that to outsiders appeared unlikely, a return all the more meritorious given the ACL injury suffered early last year.

His second game of the year in round 16 was the 50th of his career and his try against the Titans broke a try-scoring drought of just three games spread across what for many is a rugby league lifetime.

"One's certainly longer," Earl told when asked of the two try-scoring droughts.

Storm winger Sandor Earl.
Storm winger Sandor Earl. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"We identified that there would definitely be opportunities for me to score a try so I knew it was potentially going to happen but to get over, just another time to reflect. What a great moment.

"If I'm honest, I always envisioned myself scoring a try. To think about your comeback you think about a few things but crossing the line was definitely one of them.

"The first game, in reflection you talk about some nerves and a bit of hesitation but then you get the monkey off the back.

"Second game got a good stint in, played probably a bit within myself but ticked some boxes and today I wanted to show a bit more purpose in my runs.

“Each game I'm progressing and building more confidence and I feel like that is showing on the field.”

Of all the statistical benchmarks Smith is setting in his extraordinary career, try-scoring prowess is not something he is renowned for.

Sandor's six-year try drought over

It’s been a decade since he scored more than two tries in a season but in the wake of his milestone 400th game a week ago his four-pointer in the 56th minute on Sunday was the 44th of his career and within reach of a record of a very personal nature.

"It was funny actually. All the boys got around me because there's been a challenge set to me from the coach," Smith told of Craig Bellamy’s challenge.

"We were talking about the milestone last week and the other things that I've been lucky enough to achieve and he said there was one record that I haven't got yet and that's his try-scoring record.

"He finished his career with 46; I'm two off now."

With the Storm making a mockery of the Titans' left-side defence, Smith sensed the opportunity to break his duck for the year, relishing the chance to stroll across the line and around under the posts midway through the second half.

Get Caught Up: Round 18

"I've scored 44 tries now and I'd say three quarters if not more would have been just burrowing over from dummy-half in the early days,” Smith said.

"Very few times do I get up into a bit of a canter outside of 10 metres from the try-line so I just tried to enjoy it a little bit.

"I think the crowd were more shocked than what I was.

"I just saw early that our edges were doing a really good job of getting some one-on-ones out wide.

"It was nice to back up on the inside of Marion [Seve] and he got a nice pill and finally got off the duck."

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.