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Just win, baby: Smith's record is world class

Legendary Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis's maxim of "Just win, baby" is a great descriptor for the career of Cameron Smith.

Amid the plaudits flowing the way of the now-retired Immortal-in-waiting is a record of winning as impressive as any number that could sit next to his name.

A grand total of 390 wins at a 73% success rate. It’s an astonishing record in a sport that's as physical as any in the world.

Smith's 535 matches for the Melbourne Storm, Queensland Maroons, Australia and All Stars teams is an achievement in longevity in itself, but to win just shy of 75% of those games pushes him into the highest of stratospheres.

Yes, he has been in some very good teams, but in all of those teams he has rarely been outside the top two or three players for any extended period of time.

Davis, who was a larger-than-life NFL owner who courted publicity and controversy in equal measure, was the opposite of Smith as a person, but the pair’s attitude towards sport could not be more alike.

Often to the exasperation of rival players, coaches, fans and anyone else who didn't bleed both purple and maroon, Smith’s mastery of the dark arts would combine with his sublime talents to conjure win after win.

Depending on your stance on Smith's tactics, he was either the ultimate competitor or one who pushed gamesmenship beyond the rule book into illegal tactics.

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In total, Smith won 313 of 433 matches for the Storm, 49 of 56 starts in green and gold, 26 of 42 for the Maroons, and had a 2-2 record in All Stars matches.

The pall of the stripped premierships with Melbourne hangs over the head of those at the club during the period in which the club was sanctioned from 2006-10, but the wins remain.

For some context on Smith’s strike rate, his numbers stack up extremely well against some of the biggest names in world sport. The list has been restricted to those in prominent team sports who are active in 2021.

Let’s start with NFL great Tom Brady and the 76% career winning rate that goes alongside his seven Super Bowl rings.

Still in the US, NBA superstar Kawhi Leonard boasts an enviable 75% winning rate from his time with San Antonio, Toronto and now the Los Angeles Clippers.

LeBron James, he of four NBA titles and 10 trips to the finals, has won 67% of the matches he’s played in his Hall of Fame career.

Of current AFL players who have taken part in more than 300 matches, Geelong legend Joel Selwood has won 73% of his games. Almost identical to Smith but  200 fewer matches.

Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater after the 2012 grand final win.
Cooper Cronk, Cameron Smith and Billy Slater after the 2012 grand final win. ©NRL Photos

In the English Premier League, prodigious talent Mohammed Salah boasts a 74% winning rate from his time at glamour clubs Chelsea and Liverpool.

From a historical perspective, Don Bradman, arguably one of the most statistically dominant sportspeople of all time with his iconic 99.94 Test cricket batting average, but his brilliance didn't necessarily translate into team success with Australia winning 58% of his matches - 30 wins, 10 draws and 12 losses from 1928-48.

Of course, all sports have differing aspects (for example the real possibility of three results in soccer matches), but Smith’s ability to win stands up incredibly well.

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Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, who were alongside Smith for much of the winning at Melbourne, Queensland and Australia, are both just shy of their skipper in the win percentage department. They also both played at least 150 fewer matches.

Say what you want about Smith, as fans will continue to do so in coming years, but don’t deny his standing as the modern game’s greatest winner.

For all Al Davis’s posturing over the years, what he and countless other owners, chief executives, general managers and coaches would have given for a couple of Cameron Smith over the years.

The type of winner the NRL may never see again.

 

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.