Roos skipper draws comparisons to All Blacks legend
THE Kiwis are calling him the Richie McCaw of rugby league.
A man who, like the All Blacks legend is a great leader, has a remarkable win ratio and exerts unparalleled influence on a match.
He also, like McGraw, is perceived to push the boundaries of the rules, and tends to get away with it.
Kangaroos skipper Cameron Smith has been a thorn in the Kiwis' side for more than a decade. At 33 years old he is as effective as ever, and recently talked about playing on beyond the next World Cup.
Playing in his 49th Test in the Four Nations final (Monday morning, 12.30am AEST), Smith is on course to break Darren Lockyer's world record of 59 internationals. He has lost just six Tests - a win ratio of 85.4% - which compares well with McCaw's remarkable figure of 88.5%.
Smith, more than any other player in the Kangaroos line-up, is crucial to the Four Nations decider.
He controls the pace of the ruck, on both attack and defence, probably better than any player in history, and like the former All Blacks No.7 is invariably in the right place at the opportune time. He also has a remarkable ability to avoid the referee's ire.
"I think it is about having a strong understanding of the game and a fair bit of game awareness,” Smith said. "Each referee has a different idea on the way the game should go (and) the way he wants to referee the game, the speed of the play the ball.”
Until the 2014 Four Nations, Smith was unbeaten as Kangaroos captain. He was also a central figure in Queensland's incredible Origin streak and has featured in the Storm's successes in the past decade.
"The good people are very good at what they do and that tends to irritate some people,” said club, state and country teammate Cooper Cronk. "He is very good at what he does.
"He controls the ruck speeds because he practises it. He spends countless hours behind after each session practising the things that make him a good player and there is a reason why some people may question the way he goes about it ... because he has been doing it for a long time.”
Kiwis second-rower Adam Blair played alongside Smith at the Storm for six seasons and spent his formative years learning from the Queenslander.
"He's just smart,” Blair said. "He's smart at what he does, he chooses his moments ... that's the thing you notice most about Smithy. He understands time and place. Maybe sometimes he gets away with things but everything is done is the spirit of the game.”
Blair and teammate Issac Luke can understand the McCaw comparsions.
"Now that you say that, if I think about it, (it's) probably right,” said Luke. "He is the brains of league. He is class and you say the same about Richie.”
But Smith himself said: "I don't feel that I get away with any more than any other player. I just go out there and do my best to win. I'm not out there to hopefully win. I want to win and I will do everything I can to do that.”