Official: Smith ‘unemployed’ for first time in 20 years
Cameron Smith is unemployed.
In what could amount to an astonishing mic drop, the 37 year-old Melbourne Storm captain allowed his contract to expire at 11.59pm last Saturday.
In doing so, the NRL record-breaker is officially without a football salary for the first time in 20 years.
Unlike previous seasons when the Storm legend negotiated extensions deep in off-seasons, the Herald Sun has confirmed there has been no such discussions had - or planned.
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Smith could essentially be picked up by any club as a free agent, should he want to play on, but Storm has indicated previously it would create an off-field role for the NRL's greatest ever player.
Smith has grappled with retirement all season but remained adamant - including after the grand final - that no decision had been made.
Despite the uncertainty, coach Craig Bellamy arranged for the champion No.9 to be chaired off Suncorp Stadium after the preliminary final win.
"I just thought it would be a nice photo if he does decide in January to pull the pin, or whenever," Bellamy said at the time.
"That's what he did in Origin, poor old Kevvie had a heart attack. I just thought it was the right thing to do if it was his last game at Suncorp, he's had a lot of wonderful memories here."
In the event Smith has played his last game in purple the Storm will need to appoint a new captain and goalkicker for 2021, while Brandon Smith and Harry Grant would vie for the No.9 jersey.
Storm would not be drawn on Smith's status on Thursday but the club confirmed a raft of other signings.
George Jennings, 27, will join the club in January on a two-year deal, as a possible replacement for Suliasi Vunivalu (Super Rugby), while Brenko Lee and Cooper Johns secured one year-old extensions.
A Tongan international Jennings ran for 140m and scored a double in his last NRL appearance - Parramatta's semi-final loss to South Sydney.
He scored five tries in eight appearances for the Eels this year, and two in six games on loan to New Zealand Warriors, to take his career total to 15 tries in 35 games.
Lee, 25, was rewarded with a new contract after his breakout season, going from the NRL scrap heap to premiership centre and Queensland Origin selection inside 12 months.
Lee was due to debut for the Maroons in Origin I but sustained a calf setback in the warm-up.
Emerging halfback Johns, the son of Newcastle great Matthew, will spend another season in the Storm system as backup for premiership playmakers Cameron Munster and Jahrome Hughes.
Barring any COVID-19 issues, Storm plans to start pre-season training at AAMI Park on January 4.
Origin stars, including Munster and Ryan Papenhuyzen, will trickle back into training thereafter.
Storm will play trial games against the Warriors (in Queensland) and Newcastle Knights (Victoria) as preparations ramp up towards a mooted March season-opener.
Storm is desperate to open the 2021 season in Melbourne in the hope of playing in front of adoring fans for the first time since the 2019 semi-final win over Parramatta.
Originally published as Official: Smith 'unemployed' for first time in 20 years