From Matt Geyer's Melbourne basement to the penthouse of the rugby league world.
It has been some journey for 37-year-old Storm skipper Cameron Smith as he prepares for his eighth grand final and 430th first-grade game at the club for which he made his debut 18 seasons ago.
As for when that journey will end, Smith is not giving anything away but as he prepares for Sunday’s grand final against the Panthers it is with no fear of life beyond the arena where he has etched his indelible mark.
"I totally understand there is going to be interest in what I am going to be doing next year but players retire all the time so let us enjoy both teams and what we’ve been able to achieve this year and hopefully we can put on a good show," Smith said on Monday before the Storm trained on the Sunshine Coast.
Match: Panthers v Storm
Grand Final -
Venue: Accor Stadium, Sydney
"I don't fear life after football. I am comfortable with where I am at. If this is to be my last game then I will have to adjust to life after playing footy.
"I am lucky to have three beautiful children and a lovely wife who have sacrificed plenty in their own life to enable me to play for such a long time. Moving forward that is all I need.
"I have a beautiful family and I will have some great memories about the game if it is my last. If not, you will see me running around next year."
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Smith's start at Melbourne was humble but rewarding while living with Storm premiership-winner Matt Geyer.
"Boofa [Geyer] has been a huge part of my life in not only my journey as a football player but as person, husband and father,” he said.
"I learned a lot from Matty, particularly in the early years. He took me in for a couple of months early in my career down in Melbourne when I didn’t have a lot of money in the bank and was trying to save up for a house.
"There was one pre-season where instead of paying rent he opened up his basement and I was living in his basement. He didn't charge me rent. The way I paid off the rent was to babysit his three children which allowed him and his wife to go out and have dinners every couple of nights."
Geyer had no concept in 2002 that his housemate's career would unfold as it has. The club had 1999 premiership-winning rake Richard Swain on board and Smith was the new kid on the block.
"Not me. I don't mean to be insulting but I don't think anyone could have seen this," Geyer told NRL.com when asked whether he had foreseen Smith's greatness.
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"They let Richie [Swain] go and brought Cam in so we knew there must have been a decent wrap on him, because Swainy had been so good for us.
"So we knew there was something there, but I don’t think anyone could see what you see now. He has broken every record known to man and is still going.
"I don't try and compare myself to Cam but I am fascinated by how at the end of my career I was fighting for my spot in the NRL team, and if I had played another year I didn’t know if I would have been in the team … and that was at 33.
Then there were two
"Cam is 37 and if they picked an Australian team tomorrow and he made himself available he would captain it."
As for the young footballer in the basement, Geyer said it was the start of an enduring friendship.
"The kids loved him and every now and then he would look after them, and I thought it would be great to have another helping hand around the house," Geyer grinned.
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"I always used to joke that I would be in the yard working in the hot Melbourne summer and Cam would be in the kids' room falling asleep watching Toy Story or something but it was great for us both.
"We formed a lifelong friendship and for such a young bloke he was an old soul, which is why we got along so well."
Talk to those close to Smith and it is his journey rather than the final destination that makes them most proud.
None of them knows when the end date on his career will be.
"I seriously don't know. Whatever he is doing he is holding seriously close to his chest," Cameron's father Wayne Smith told NRL.com.
"Cam likes to make decisions with the emotion taken out of it. Win or lose this week – euphoria or bitter disappointment – he won't want to say what he is thinking. He will want to let all the dust settle.
"He would be telling the young blokes this week 'it is not about any individual, it is about us, because one person won’t help us win'.
"Looking in, I get the feeling that Cam is savouring being part of this 2020 team’s development as young men and footballers. It is like a project they have been doing for a couple of years that is coming to fruition."
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Cameron has told his players to soak in the build-up.
"I told the boys to embrace grand final week and everything that comes with it,” Cameron said.
"It's been a remarkable effort for this team to make a grand final, but what we have done over the past 22 matches won't get us the result on Sunday. We need another good week of preparation and do our best against Penrith who have been the best team in the premiership by far.
"Outside of 2010, for different reasons, this has been the most difficult season, but it's more been about our relocation.
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"We haven't been in our homes and our beds for five months and for this group to turn around and play so consistently throughout the season and put the organisation back in a grand final is nothing short of remarkable."
It was Geyer who famously tagged Smith "a footballer in an accountant's body”.
He also insists if you could GPS plot every move he made on a football field, and then review it, all the moves would be the right ones.
Last week Smith ran 65 metres to stop Nick Cotric scoring a try a metre from the line in an amazing combination of reading the play and desire.
"That tackle on Nick Cotric, that was phenomenal. He made a similar one last year on Dane Gagai against Souths when he was about to score in the corner, and he had no right to be there," Geyer said.
"We are great mates and I have to be careful I don't turn into his fan but I went to the Sunny Coast for Old Boys' day when the Storm played the Cowboys, and because I hadn’t seen him live for a while I thought I'd watch his game closely for a bit.
"He is still very efficient, very economical and has such a feel for the game that he knows where the ball is going before it goes there."
It is why Geyer won’t be surprised if Smith plays on next year.
Cam is 37 and if they picked an Australian team tomorrow and he made himself available he would captain itMatt Geyer on Cameron Smith
"If he drops ten per cent over the next few years he is still going to be at a very high level and be one of the best players in the game," Geyer said.
"It sounds weird to say that he could be 40 and still one of the NRL’s top players.
"To me Cam has been selfless. He doesn’t want to make this run to the grand final about his retirement.
"He can’t control the media but I am sure that if he did tell everyone that he is retiring it would become 'the Cameron Smith farewell tour' and that is what he doesn’t want.
"Cam has taken a lot of heat for it and could have easily buckled but has stayed strong and true to his way."
The Smiths have their children enrolled in the primary section of Marymount College where Geyer is a teacher on the Gold Coast.
"I’m just proud of him and his family. My wife [Belinda] and his wife [Barb] are in touch quite a lot and it is tough time for them as well, and they are doing their best to keep that all together.
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"I am really proud of how they have grown up from those teenagers we knew in Melbourne to the family they are now.”
In another piece of symmetry, the Geyers have three children, as do the Smiths.
"He wanted to be like me … so he definitely stopped. You are only human," Matt said with a grin.
Geyer was part of the 1999 side which blazed a trail for what was to come.
They weren't meant to win the grand final but they did in extraordinary fashion after trailing the Dragons 14-0 at half-time.
"A lot of teams when they are new to the competition target being competitive but by winning it that became the bar and the level, and that has been a huge benefit,” Geyer said.
"Obviously getting Craig Bellamy on board to team up with Cam ... what a great partnership they have been for so long. Listening to them talk about eight prelims in the last decade and five grand finals, the numbers are baffling.
"I read recently that Cam has captained 320 games. Ten players have probably played more than that. Recently he won his 300th game. Far out. Throw in his hundred rep games ... and he is going all right.”
And still going strong too and fresh as a daisy.
"I have got through most seasons quite well physically. The last season of my rep career in 2017 is where I struggled the most physically and mentally," Smith said.
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"I always wanted to make myself available for the team post-Origin but I didn’t back up once after those three games and that was probably the major factor in giving rep footy away.
"The last three seasons with no rep commitments it has made it a bit easier. This year it took a bit of adjusting to game-day travel. The first couple of games I didn’t enjoy but you tend to adapt and get on with things. I feel good.
"We are not satisfied with just making the grand final, we want to go there and play well and give ourselves a shot at winning.
"My focus is solely on this week's preparation and my role in the team and what my coach and teammates need from me. I will go out and do my best on the weekend, and whatever happens on the weekend happens."