Smith makes giant call on NRL future
HE'S already done it all in rugby league, but this enormous deal with the Melbourne Storm is proof we haven't seen the back of Cameron Smith.
The Melbourne legend will play a record 18th season for the Storm after agreeing to new terms with the club to play into 2019.
If he remains uninjured, Smith will become the first player in NRL history to crack 400 games late next year.
The former Kangaroos and Queensland skipper stepped down drop representative footy, meaning his body will be under far less stress playing in the forwards next year.
The deal to keep him at the Storm is reportedly worth $1 million.
STORM GUNNING FOR BACK-TO-BACK PREMIERSHIPS
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy joked he poked Storm backrower Felise Kaufusi with a stick to fire him up for their NRL qualifying final.
Whatever he did worked as the gentle giant turned raging bull against South Sydney, with Sam Burgess seemingly waving a redrag.
Kaufusi lined up the Rabbitohs' own enforcer time and again at AAMI Park, knocking the ball from his grasp in some crucialplays in the one-point win. After the match Bellamy said it was a huge performance from the 26-year-old, more known for hisruns on the edge of the ruck, and described it as his best of the season.
Raised in sleepy Bundaberg in a family of 11, Kaufusi admits at times he does need a "poke" to get going.
"It's pretty hard because I'm a pretty relaxed guy and am pretty laid back," said the Maroons and Test backrower.
"But I knew I needed to go out there with an aggressive mindset because that's when I play well." He said he was aware withgiant prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona missing the match through injury, the Storm needed as much physicality as they could muster to get on top of the Burgess brothers-led Rabbitohs.
Brother to former NRL star Antonio and Patrick, who also plays with the Storm, Kaufusi said he tried to soak up the finals fever.
"The build-up in the finals is enough for me - I let the finals footy hype get to me and I was able to be aggressive," he said.
Turning that aggression into effective defence was helped this year by extra sessions with Trevor "The Axe" Gillmeister whilein camp with the Maroons. Known as a tackling machine, Gillmeister worked with Kaufusi and his teammates before Origin IIIon their tackling technique, wanting them to commit fully, stay on their feet and drive with their shoulder.
Given Queensland's win in that match and the Storm's march into week three of the finals, it has proved effective.
Bellamy said he wanted more of the same from Kaufusi in their preliminary final on Friday week.
"It's certainly the best game he's had this year for us so hopefully he can poke himself with a stick in two weeks time," the coach said.
- with AAP