MELBOURNE stalwart Ryan Hoffman says Cameron Smith is the best exponent of rugby league he has play alongside and is adamant neither the Storm nor their captain will be affected by the looming saga surrounding his future.
The 30-year-old Australia skipper is off contract at the end of next year. On Sunday morning, a story appeared saying he would throw himself on the open market next season rather than commit himself to the club.
Later that night, after his 250th game for the world champions, he appeared to contradict himself by saying he wanted to bring up the 300 in Melbourne colours – a feat that would require him to re-sign with the club.
“I suppose the best compliment you could give anyone is that they are the first bloke, if you were in a team, you’d want to play with,” said Hoffman, who has played alongside some of the greats since making his representative debut in 2006.
“And Cameron’s definitely that. I class him as the best player I’ve ever played with and I know there’s some pretty good company I’ve played with over the years.
“But Cameron Smith is, I suppose, the ultimate footballer. He can do every facet of the game and doesn’t get flustered doing it.
“I’ve been with some good captains – Steve Kearney, Robbie Kearns – but I think Cameron stands above because of his consistent performances. It’s a ‘follow me’ attitude.”
With Craig Bellamy and Cooper Cronk in recent years keeping fans guessing over their futures at a club that has been stripped of two premierships and recently changed owners, the Storm are well practiced at insulating themselves against controversy.
“Nothing is going to phase him,” said Hoffman. “We’ve been through tough times at this club and he’s been the one who’s stood tall every time.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal issue or a team issue, you know it’s not going to affect his rugby league.
“Obviously we want him to stay. We want him to become the first player to play 300 games for the Melbourne Storm and hopefully he can.”
Filed for: RUGBY LEAGUE WEEK