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Cam's call: Smith speaks on future, successors and Bellamy's next move

Cameron Smith may not make a call on his future until well after Melbourne's 2020 season is completed.

In what is becoming an increasingly rare in-depth interview from the evergreen hooker, he conceded the Storm's famed succession planning has been almost too good, contributing to an intense focus on the repercussions for himself, Harry Grant, Brandon Smith and several NRL rivals.

The champion No.9 also declared Grant would be back at Melbourne "next year no matter what", that he can't see coach Craig Bellamy at any team and that club-wide contract questions, few bigger than his own, would not derail the Storm's pursuit of yet another premiership triumph.

Cam's Call

Smith's Zoom in to the NRL finals launch on Monday morning led to him being bombarded with the same questions that have been floated for the past two months.

"Nothing's changed from last week. Or three weeks ago. Or six weeks ago," Smith began this interview, having already fielded the same queries elsewhere throughout the morning.

"I just can't believe the amount of curiosity and speculation around my future. It is what it is and I understand that people are interested in what I'm going to do next year.

Cameron Smith fields questions from the media via Zoom on Monday.
Cameron Smith fields questions from the media via Zoom on Monday. ©Grant Trouville/NRL Photos

"But at the moment I haven't got a decision unfortunately for everyone."

The only man who has pushed his famously unremarkable frame through 400-plus NRL games says it would be different if Bellamy or other Storm officials indicated "we need an answer".

Given he doesn't see "it affecting the way I play or the way my teammates are playing", he remains comfortable taking his time with his decision.

It won't be made at full-time on grand final night, even if yet another Storm victory lap is about to begin.

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And he has no issue with not knowing when his last game will land in advance.

"Winning the competition wouldn't be the deciding factor at all," Smith said.

"If we were lucky enough to get the grand final win, when that full-time siren went it wouldn't determine anything in my mind.

"If this year is to be my last year, and I make that decision post the season, that's what it is.

"And everyone around me is comfortable with that too and they are supportive of that.

"I'd like to think it's not affecting the way I play or the way my teammates are playing. And that's all that matters to us at the moment, that we keep doing what we've done all year.

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"Given my form this year, I feel I'm playing well. I'm certainly enjoying it as much as I have.

"It's funny I talk to a couple of my ex-teammates and the reason that they gave the game away is they knew, they just couldn't do anymore and they didn't want to do it any more.

"At the moment I don't feel that way."

The Other Guys

Smith is well aware of the implications of his decision on his namesake Brandon and Grant.

How could he not be?

The Storm's unrivalled ability to regenerate – replacing Billy Slater with Ryan Papenhuyzen, Cooper Cronk with Kiwi international Jahrome Hughes – has his own shoes set to be filled by the current New Zealand No.9 and quite possibly, the soon-to-be Queensland Origin counterpart.

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"Most definitely," Cameron responds when asked if there would be so much conjecture if his two slated successors weren't so good.

"We've got Brandon who is currently the Kiwis No.9, and we've got Harry Grant who was part of an historic loan deal with the Wests Tigers.

"And Harry going out and playing the way he did this year. But to us that wasn't a surprise at all ... There is no doubt there is so much interest in that because what has transpired this year, particularly because of the loan deal with Harry."

Smith and Grant are contracted to the Storm until the end of 2022.

But the fact Cam Smith keeps occupying the No.9 jersey they both crave has rivals, including the Bulldogs, Tigers and Titans watching with interest and salary cap space set aside.

A much-publicised clause in Grant's contract is believed to not be as cut and dry as Smith playing on meaning the 22-year-old would move elsewhere.

Smith said as much in the very next breath on Monday.

"I have spoken to Harry on numerous occasions this year and at no stage has he ever asked me the question about what I am doing so he can sort his future," Smith said.

"He is committed to being in Melbourne next year no matter what.

"Whatever my decision is everyone will find out and everyone will carry on with their lives and their footy careers post that."

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Smith's namesake may well be harder to hang onto.

At 24 with four seasons to his name and dummy-half chops that would make him a walk-up start at most rivals, Brandon Smith conceded last week his own future hinged on his senior teammate.

"Obviously, with Cam, the decision will determine me and Harry’s future but there is no pressure on him," he said.

"If Cam ends up leaving I will definitely stay at the Storm but until then we just don’t know."

Bellamy the Bronco?

Aside from the Smiths and the successors, Melbourne's hierarchy has had the small matter of Bellamy's future thrust uncomfortably into the spotlight by a brazen approach from Brisbane.

Storm chairman Matt Tripp has come out swinging at the Broncos' pursuit of Bellamy on a reported five-year coaching director's role from 2022.

With Bellamy declaring he would well and truly wrap up head coaching at the end of next season, Melbourne want to keep him in a similar gig of their own, and are more than willing for him to work remotely from Queensland to do it.

Asked if he could see his coach wearing anything other than purple, Smith said: "I can't, I guess. It would be a strange thing to see him anywhere else.

Craig Bellamy looking sharp as he collects the 2019 Dally M Coach of the Year.
Craig Bellamy looking sharp as he collects the 2019 Dally M Coach of the Year. ©NRL Photos

"I just don't know whether he would go and do that now he has spoken about how every year gets a little harder for him given the intensity he coaches at every day. Whether he's still at the Storm in 2022 is something we will have to wait and see.

"The thing about that is it's a long time away. We are talking about two years' time. We're not focused on that at the moment.

"I know it has grown interest at the moment but we're not focused on that, he's not focused on that. We're just worried about what we can control now."

And as to how the Storm do that? With the small matter of an Eels grudge match on Saturday night and their annual September wrestling drama rearing its head once more?

"That's something we've had to deal with in the past," Smith said.

"It's just another opportunity to try and get under our skin and put us off by some sections of the media.

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"We have been dealing with speculation all year around certain parts of our team and certain individuals in our team.

"We've gone out and performed each week, so I think we are well placed to handle that."

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.