Smith denies Storm impasse
Melbourne captain Cameron Smith has squashed suggestions his contract renewal was delayed by an ultimatum, revealing he asked the club to secure young star Cameron Munster as priority.
The 35-year-old fronted media on Thursday after signing a two-year extension with the Storm, ending months of uncertainty around his playing future.
Denying an impasse over requesting a two-year-deal rather than an expected 12-month contract, Smith said he would have been happy to sign for one more year rather than retire if the club was reluctant about his longevity.
"My thought process was to ask the question. If it was a deadset no from the club, then that was the answer and I would have been happy to go ahead with the 12 months and then reassess during this season for 2020," he said, explaining the delay was tied to bigger priority signings within the club.
"It was more about the time in hand, I was in no rush at all knowing that I had three months off. From my end there was no pushing the club into a decision.
"We had some talented young guys coming off-contract the club were looking to retain or extend. It's something I've always been very wary of around my negotiations is who we can retain in the club as well. There's no use me going in and signing a contract and having no quality players around me as well.
"The prefect example was Cameron Munster. He's one of the best players in the competition at the moment and it was important that the club retained him. I spoke to the CEO and said to Dave (Donaghy) that if he is of higher importance make sure that gets done first."
Stopping short of confirming he took a pay cut so the club could retain Munster, Smith said accepting less than market value was part of the Storm's culture.
"The rest of the players that I've come through this club in my career like Ryan Hoffman, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, all of those guys we've always been very wary of making sure we have a strong squad around us and if that means that you play at this club for less than what you could possibly get somewhere else, then that's what you do," he said.
"It's who we are as people and who we are at this club. It's not about being selfish. I think some people can be at times, but certainly at this organisation it's about being selfless."
Smith said retiring from representative football has prolonged his career enough to play for two more years, and the 400-game milestone has been in the back of his mind.
Currently the most-capped rugby league player of all time with 384 games, Smith will achieve the incredible milestone in Round 17 should he remain fit.
He will also become the highest-points scorer of all time, overtaking Hazem El Masri with just 33 more points.
"It's a special number, 400, no one has ever reached that. It's in the back of your mind when it's in reach," he said.
"If I was at a stage at the end of last season where I was struggling to play games and I was struggling to recover each week and my performances weren't up to scratch, I would have taken that out of the equation and decided to finish.
"No one has ever played 400 games in our code, and I don't think anyone would have thought the first person to do it, if it happens, would be someone from a Melbourne rugby league team. You'd think it would be someone from Sydney. I hope I can achieve that feat. I've got about 16 matches to play so I'll get them out of the way and worry about that when I get to it."