Smith reveals Raiders offer
CAMERON Smith could have been a Raider.
It is remarkable to even consider in 2019, but at the end of 2002 he was stuck behind Richard Swain at Melbourne and looking for a pathway into the NRL.
Heartbreaking to learn in hindsight, the Raiders went so far as to fly Smith to Canberra and show him around the facilities, but it all hinged on whether Swain would re-sign with the Storm for the following season.
At the time, Smith was just 19 years old and finishing up his debut season in first grade where he played just two games at halfback.
The Raiders had skipper Simon Woolford as their starting hooker, but saw potential in Smith as his long term replacement.
MATTY JOHNS PODCAST - Matty sits down with Melbourne legend Cameron Smith to discuss his astonishing rugby league career, including a few untold stories
In a wide-ranging interview on The Matty Johns Podcast, Smith reveals a little-known story about how close he came to joining the Green Machine.
"I've had two," Smith says when asked if he had any significant offers to join a rival club over his 402-game career.
"One was before the '03 season, and I don't think many people know about this. The situation at the Storm was, Richard Swain was off-contract, I was off-contract. I'd spent most of that season with Swainy. Terrific bloke, wonderful fella.
"He taught me a lot of things in the short amount of time we spent together.
"I remember saying to him, 'mate, you're a club legend, I'm not going to put pressure on you by signing or anything like that. You do what you have to do and then I'll make my decision.
"But in that time there was some interest from the Raiders.
"I actually flew up to Canberra and had a look at their facilities and all that stuff.
"What would have happened is if Richard would have signed at Melbourne, there's a huge chance I would have ended up at the Raiders.
"What happened in the following weeks was (Melbourne) decided to take a punt on a young fella and Richie ended up moving on."
The following year he made his State of Origin debut for the Maroons.
Woolford eventually left the Raiders to join the Dragons at the end of 2006, to be replaced by Lincoln Withers.
Ironically, Storm coach Craig Bellamy had also interviewed for a job as Raiders head coach, but missed the cut. He landed at Melbourne instead.
Later, the Broncos missed their chance to sign the most prolific player in history.
After Smith and his wife Barb had their third child Matilda, he could see she was struggling without their families around them for support in Melbourne.
On top of his commitments with the Storm, he also played three games of Origin each year as well as Tests and Kangaroos tours at the end of each season.
To take the pressure off at home, he considered taking an offer from Brisbane at the end of 2013 to be closer to family support for his wife and kids.
"It was a reality that I was going to end up playing there," he said.
However, Barb could see he was struggling with the decision to leave Melbourne and asked where he would be most happy - the Broncos or Storm.
She made the sacrifice for the family to take the pressure off Smith, and the rest is history.
"Thankfully we had that conversation and I went back to the Storm to tell them I was staying on," he said.
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