Cameron Smith plans to still be playing in the NRL in 2020. But as he said it out loud to media on Thursday, even he had to laugh.
Smith is 35 and just 16 games from playing his 400th NRL game. No one has ever reached that milestone, and possibly no one will match it, either.
But as he stood before the cameras after training and announced his new two-year contract, the refreshed and refocused captain couldnt stifle a chuckle.
Yes, even he is struggling to comprehend playing a 19th season – let alone his 18th this year – and his club seemed shocked when he asked for another two.
"I guess the Storm were a little surprised by the request," Smith said.
"My thought process was just asking the question and if it was a deadset 'no' from the club then I would have been happy to go ahead for 12 months then re-assess for 2020."
That's where the smile broke across his face. As a Brisbane-raised teenager who made his debut as a makeshift half-back in 2002, the thought of still running around in 2020 is surreal.
But Smith isn't just sticking around for the milestones or to top up his super. He still believes he can match it with the NRLs best. He was fit for every game last season, missing just one week due to suspension (a ban he still appears furious about).
After being handed a three-month holiday this off-season, Smith left his contract in the wind so the likes of Cameron Munster could re-sign and the club could balance their books for his longer stay.
There is no use me signing a contract and having no quality players around me.
"I've also been very wary around my negotiations about who we can retain as there is no use me signing a contract and having no quality players around me," Smith said.
"That's not what our game is about, our game is about having a strong squad and the perfect example is Cameron Munster, one of the best young players in the comp, and it was important the club retained him.
"I spoke to Dave [chief executive Dave Donaghy] and said if that is of higher importance make sure it gets done first and that was all to do with the length of time it took to get it sorted."
He wouldn't directly reveal whether he took a pay cut but when his answer suggested as much.
"Myself and the rest of the players I've come through with like Ryan Hoffman, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk and all those guys, we have always been wary of having a strong squad around us," Smith said.
"If that means you play for less than you could possibly get elsewhere then that's what you do – it's not about being selfish and some people can be at times but at this organisation it is all about being selfless and having players around you that let you compete."
Smith is last man standing at Storm from that generation and while he is still hurting after last season's grand final loss to the Roosters, he is more mindful of his younger teammates who lost their first decider.
Smith has won four grand finals and lost three but still wants more. He sees plenty of improvement in his side.
Retiring from representative football last year helped protect his body and, health permitting, he won't be saying farewell until either his fire goes out or coach Craig Bellamy taps him on the shoulder.
"Stepping down from the representative scene has given me the option to play two more years," Smith said.
"I still enjoy playing the game, I still love competing on the field and I haven't been told by any of the coaches that my performance is diminishing. That would be a sure sign of finishing up.
"That's one thing I'm conscious of, doing my job and competing. If I can do that then I want to play as long as possible.
"I've had conversations with teammates who have finished up and their advice is always, 'Mate, play as long as you can, there is nothing like being on the middle of the field with your teammates and playing the game you love'.
Smith is back training and while old running mates Slater and Hoffman have retired, he still feels he has a place.
"I don't feel like a 35-year-old veteran when I walk in and I'm walking around with these 21-year-olds," he said.
"I feel young and I get a spring in the step and they exude enthusiasm back to you and energy so as long as they keep doing that I'll be happy."
Roy Ward is a Sports writer for The Age.
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