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After months of uncertainty, Cameron Smith has finally called time on his decorated rugby league career.
The former Melbourne Storm skipper today announced his retirement from the NRL with former teammates, coaches and opponents flocking to social media to pay tribute to arguably one of the greatest players to ever grace the game.
Cameron Smith has officially announced his retirement from Rugby League.
One of the greatest of all time :clap: pic.twitter.com/Pyn6kYMLsG
- NRL (@NRL) March 10, 2021
37-year-old Smith hangs up the boots with two Dally M Medals, three NRL championship rings, 11 State of Origin titles and a bunch of other accolades to his name.
The Storm tweeted: "Cameron Smith has today announced his retirement from professional rugby league. Cam is not only among the most decorated players the game has ever seen, he made an immeasurable contribution to our club on and off the field, and his legacy will be remembered in Melbourne forever."
The team - where Smith spent his entire 433-game NRL career - also posted a picture of their legendary former captain on Instagram, captioning it: "The greatest of all time."
Cameron Smith has today announced his retirement from professional rugby league.
Cam is not only among the most decorated players the game has ever seen, he made an immeasurable contribution to our club on and off the field, and his legacy will be remembered in Melbourne forever. pic.twitter.com/iEqxelnvQA
- Melbourne Storm :trophy: (@storm) March 10, 2021
Smith, who was previously linked with a big-money move to the Brisbane Broncos amid ongoing contract negotiations with the Storm, made the official retirement announcement while unveiling a statue of himself outside the team's home ground AAMI Park.
"In my head it was probably about a week ago," Smith said.
"The unveiling of the statue was today and I knew I was going to be in Melbourne so it was the perfect opportunity to announce my decision seeing as this was where I - and Billy (Slater) - started our career right here in Olympic Park in 2002.
"This is where I wanted to officially end it as well. And I had the opportunity to stand next to my good friend Billy too when I announced it.
"I spent a few month in Queensland with the family and had a really good opportunity with my thoughts to think whether to play on or not play on.
"For me I look back at my career and found that I was very fortunate to be part of such a wonderful organisation filled with many great footballers and people as well.
"It felt like the right time to finish, on the back of what was a very successful season last year, albeit a very different season being away from home. Everyone knows we didn't get an opportunity to play at home in Melbourne in front of home fans.
"So I couldn't ask for more than finishing with the club that I played with for my whole career. I was wrestling with the idea for quite some time and that's why it took so long.
"I spoke to a handful of people that are quite close to me throughout last year while the season was still on and then in the weeks after the season had finished, people like Billy, I was trying to talk with them on not only my situation but also pick their brain of how they came to the conclusion that it was the time to end their professional career.
"I had to wrestle with that decision because that's what made it most difficult. At the end of last year, winning the Premiership, I still felt good within myself physically and mentally and felt my form was still good enough to play in the NRL. But after spending good quality time with my family up in Queensland, I knew that was the right time to finish.
"It just gives me the opportunity now to enjoy what is the next phase of my life."
In the build-up to the 2020 NRL Grand Final against the Penrith Panthers, it was understood that Smith would be playing his last game for the Storm after both parties failed to reach an agreement on a new deal.
And until now, his playing future remained cloudy.
But thankfully for the veteran hooker, he'll remember his last ever footy game rather fondly after guiding his side to victory and lifting the coveted Provan-Summons trophy.
As for the long-lasting legacy he leaves behind, well, just check his resume.
What a player.
Featured Image Credit: Melbourne Storm / Twitter
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