Cameron Smith will be a Storm NRL player for his entire career after locking in a new four-year deal with the club.
Having shown remarkable durability throughout his career, iron man Cameron Smith is confident his body will allow him to play rugby league at the top level into his mid-30s.
The Australia, Queensland and Melbourne captain announced on Tuesday he had signed a four-year contract extension, tying him to the Storm until the end of 2018, by which time he will be 35.
Smith had been linked with a big-money move to rivals Brisbane.
But the champion hooker – whose three young children have lived all of their lives in the Victorian capital – said family was his biggest consideration in deciding where he would finish up his career.
“There were times, on and off, where I thought the best decision was to go back to Queensland, given that all our support network is up there – in immediate family,” Smith said.
“But a discussion my wife and I had while we were overseas sort of made the decision clear that I wanted to play in Melbourne and my wife was extremely happy to stay.”
Since becoming a first-grade regular in 2003, Smith has played 260 of a possible 291 games for Melbourne.
The majority of those club matches he missed were when he was unavailable due to State of Origin duty, with injury ruling him out of action on only eight occasions.
“At the moment I feel great,” he said.
“For me, age is a number.
“People keep reminding me that I’m getting on a bit and a couple of the other boys are getting on a bit at the club but as long as I feel good mentally and feel good inside I want to keep playing.
“I feel like I’m a pretty honest person and if I felt like I had nothing left to give to this club or the game then I would probably have told the club this was my last year.
“But I still feel like I’ve got something to offer.”
Smith is set to surpass Matt Geyer (262 games) as the most capped Storm player when Melbourne play Penrith at AAMI Park on Saturday.
That encounter will also mark fellow club great Billy Slater’s 250th first-grade match, all of them with Melbourne.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy expected Smith to emulate long-time Maroons and Kangaroos teammates Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva, who both remained among the most influential players in the NRL into their mid-30s.
“He’s not going to slow down any more,” said Bellamy.
“Hopefully he’ll get a bit quicker between the ears but you’d find that hard to believe too because he’s obviously one of the smartest players in the game.”
Bellamy said he was worried before Christmas that Smith would decide to return to his hometown of Brisbane, but those concerns had eased in recent times.
“The one thing I did say to him early in the process was that I thought it would be a real shame if he didn’t finish his career here, just for the sake of being that one-team player,” said Bellamy who had also been strongly courted by the Broncos in previous years.
“He just wouldn’t have looked the same player if he was playing in different colours in the NRL.”
Smith’s new deal with the Storm will put him within reach of Lockyer’s all-time NRL record of 355 first-grade appearances.