BY CURTIS WOODWARD
On Friday night in Townsville, in his 389th first grade rugby league game, Cameron Smith stopped and peered back into the bright lights of history.
Behind him, was every single player that has ever played the game in this country.
Imagine that? every single player that has laced the boots and ran onto a football field. For tonight, Smith surpassed Canterbury legend Hazem El Masri as the greatest points scorer in history.
After the game, Storm coach Craig Bellamy said Smith was the best player he’s ever seen. He’s a fair judge.
Perhaps poetically, such was the grind of the Melbourne Storm against North Queensland, the record was broken with a penalty goal.
The Cowboys tried hard but seem to be sinking further into the quick sand the harder they try. And to make matters worse, with their best player Jason Taumalolo watching from the sidelines, they would lose two more late in the piece when Nene McDonald and John Asiata went down on the same play.
Asiata got to his feet but McDonald would not.
It was clear on television replays that the winger had broken his leg and we’d all be happy to never see those images again.
Cowboys coach Paul Green will get little sleep tonight.
With Taumalolo out and makeshift custodian Te Maire Martin at the back, they’ll now be without McDonald and he won’t be back this season.
Interestingly, first choice hooker Jake Granville spent a large portion of the match on the bench with Kurt Baptiste preferred.
Green is desperately searching for the spark that ignites his side.
Serves them right for investing in perennial bad boy Ben Barba.
It’s clear his side isn’t playing enough football.
The Storm is a machine and tough to beat but the difference in Townsville was clear.
Deep in their own half in the second stanza, Storm five-eigth Cameron Munster kicked on the first play from a scrum for flying winger Josh Addo-Carr who easily beat his opponents to the ball. They didn’t score from that play but it showed the difference in the mindsets of the two sides.
At the end of the game, fellow Storm demigod Billy Slater interviewed his old teammate Smith for Channel Nine. Asked about his team’s performance, Smith conceded he wanted his chargers to play more footy.
A scary thought for their upcoming opponents.
The Storm are 5-0 but with so much improvement to go.
Bellamy doesn’t get enough credit for how he has shifted this squad from the heavyweight champions of wrestling to a perfect mix of grind, toughness and skill.
They say you can’t go back-to-back in the NRL.
That means the Sydney Roosters are out.
Do we just give the Storm the premiership trophy now?
A sentimental thought for Cameron Smith who’ll be sitting on 400 plus games by then. Unfortunately for them, the Roosters are looking better than any defending premier in some time.
Forget Brock Lesnar – the Roosters are the beasts from the east.
So what are we left with?
After Friday night, Melbourne and the Roosters sit atop the competition table.
Can they meet each other in back-to-back grand finals?
Absolutely – they’re miles ahead of everyone else.
If they were to clash again, it would be the first time since 2007/2008 that the same two clubs appeared in the final game of the year.
There’s plenty of water to go under the 2019 bridge but all we know right now is there’s two teams ahead of the pack and by a distance.
It’s up to the others to find that championship gear.