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Calm after Cam: How Storm will replace Smith's legendary leadership

Melbourne's bid to replace one of the greatest leaders of all-time will be a collective effort in 2021, with Ryan Papenhuyzen planning to add his voice and tipping unsung back-rower Kenny Bromwich to replicate Cameron Smith's legendary calm under pressure.

The Storm have assembled as usual for their pre-season camp in Geelong with Smith still yet to publicly confirm whether he will play on or retire as the NRL most capped player.

Having led Melbourne to three premierships and another two grand final wins (titles stripped due to salary cap cheating), and led Queensland to five Origin series wins and Australia to two World Cup triumphs, Smith has one of the greatest captaincy CVs in rugby league history.

The Storm have prepared to be without the five-time Dally M captain of the year for some time, with veteran forwards Jesse Bromwich and Dale Finucane sharing the vice-captaincy in recent years.

Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen.
Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen. ©

A call-up to Melbourne's emerging leadership group also looms for Papenhuyzen given his key role at fullback.

The 22-year-old concedes replacing Smith shapes as a daunting task on many levels, but backed the younger Bromwich brother to help keep the side in check during heated moments.

"I don't think someone will try to replace Cam if he is not going to be here," Papenhuyzen said on Thursday.

"It's more about bringing your strengths to the table.

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"Two who stand out are the Bromwich brothers. They have been here for a while now and they won't lead like Cam, they will lead like themselves.

"What Cam was really good at was his calmness and that is something we will work on [during] pre-season now, get in heaps of reps so when we get to those situations it becomes second nature.

"Kenny Bromwich is really calm, he strikes me as one of those kinds of people. There is that aura, Kenny has that and a few others have that but Kenny stands out."

As his own status in the game continues to rise Papenhuyzen also wants to take a lead role in Melbourne's team meetings and playmaking.

Coach Craig Bellamy has encouraged the 2020 Clive Churchill medallist to do just that since this time last year.

Having earned NSW Origin squad honours late last season, Papenhuyzen says the lessons learned from Bellamy and the Blues' best and brightest have him eyeing more leadership duties in his third season of NRL.

"You build a lot of confidence out of making those [representatitve] squads and having a chat to Teddy [James Tedesco], Luke Keary, Jack Wighton, speaking to all those boys and seeing the path they went and what they look for in games," Papenhuyzen said.

"You take a lot of confidence out of that. I did that personally.

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"Their analysis and the way they work on their craft [stood out]. Seeing them after training and the conversations they have around what's going to work and what's not, it relays what you've been taught.

"But to hear it from those guys, they're stars of the game... you just take confidence in thinking 'I'm on the right path, I'm learning the right things. If they're doing that then it's going to improve my game as well.'

"I've been here for a few years now and training hard but it's taking it to the next level and really being a leader.

"[Bellamy] encourages me to speak up and values my opinion and to get that from the coach is a good feeling."

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.