Smith could walk away from NRL: Bellamy
COOPER Cronk could run out for his final NRL game on Saturday night but it could it also mark the last time fans see Cameron Smith.
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy revealed on Friday the Storm skipper was undecided on his future beyond this year and could bow out following their preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters.
Smith is contracted for next season but could elect to hang up his boots immediately if the Storm are knocked out by the Roosters.
Smith holds the record for most games played and will make his 411th NRL appearance at the SCG.
Bellamy said he expected the Storm skipper to make a decision in consultation with his family in the coming weeks.
"He'll see what he thinks is best, have a chat to the club," Bellamy said.
"Then we'll go from there. Whichever way he wants to go, I'll support him 100 per cent."
Bellamy also hit back at Smith's constant critics who have labelled him a "protected species" and claimed he has too much influence over the game's referees.
The claims against Smith are not supported by the fact that he is the third most penalised hooker and 12th most penalised player in the competition this year, having been pinged 18 times.
"I don't adhere to that theory at all," Bellamy said.
"It seems we'll put him up there and knock him down, it seems to be at the Aussie way, a little bit of the tall poppy (syndrome).
"Give me Cameron Smith anytime. In any team you're involved with, you'd want Cameron Smith every day of the week."
The match will be a somewhat bittersweet occasion for both clubs with Cronk, who has been a premiership winner with both sides, set to hang up his boots at the end of the season.
Bellamy spoke glowingly of Cronk, saying the five-time grand final winner and eight-time grand finalist deserved every accolade that came his way.
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson said his club had taken the emotion out of the occasion and would celebrate Cronk's career once the season was done.
"He's training tough, he's got a black eye," Robinson said.
"You're focused on performance, we've got a game to play.
"That's an important thing (his retirement) in a couple of weeks but at the moment he's halfback, playing in a prelim final so let's go."
Meanwhile, Robinson was keeping his cards close to his chest, refusing to reveal whether hooker Jake Friend would return from the two-month lay-off that followed a fracture to his forearm.
Sam Verrills has been named at No.9 and Friend on the bench, but Robinson could yet shuffle his line-up.
He also refused to speculate about the health of playmaker Luke Keary, who is reportedly battling an ankle injury.
Stream every match of the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand on KAYO SPORTS. Get your 14 day free trial and start streaming instantly >