Cameron Smith will play his 400th NRL game.
Cameron Smith will play his 400th NRL game. Mark Metcalfe

Parker: Smith in league of his own

IT was game three of the 2015 State of Origin series when Cameron Smith proved to me what I already knew, he's more than a great footballer, he's a great man.

We'd been beaten by New South Wales 26-18 in a spiteful clash at the MCG in game two and all the talk was about how the Blues were going to come to Suncorp Stadium and give us a belting in the decider.

That Sunday night, 60 Minutes aired a story on Alex McKinnon which unfairly painted Cam Smith as a heartless human who showed no remorse of care for a fellow footballer and put him and Alex in a position that neither wanted nor deserved to be in.

The story created a wave of negative headlines and press for Cam and as we headed into Origin camp on the Monday we were all worried about what headspace he'd be in.

On the way to our first training session Cam stood up in front of the boys and said, "I know you've all seen the story, I'm OK and that's the last I want to talk about it”.

As the firestorm around the story continued to rage, Cam went about preparing for the State of Origin decider.

In the sheds before the game there was a feeling in the air that I can't quite describe, it wasn't confidence or arrogance, but there was a feeling that something special was about to happen.

We came out in that game and blew the Blues off the park.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 13:  Corey Parker of the Maroons and Cameron Smith of the Maroons celebrate winning the series following game three of the State Of Origin series between the New South Wales Blues and the Queensland Maroons at ANZ Stadium on July 13, 2016 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Corey Parker with Smith after an Origin win. Cameron Spencer

With half an hour to go we were leading the Blues 30-0 in front of a packed and heaving Suncorp Stadium.

Given the ill will from the Blues leading into the game and what he'd been through during the week, you could have forgiven Cam for using the night to stick one up the Blues and his critics.

Instead, he grabbed us behind the try line and said: "Don't ease up, let's put them to the sword, but let's make sure we show the Blues respect and we respect the jersey we're playing in”.

Cam told us that he didn't want to see any lairizing, he didn't want us playing up to the crowd or putting the Blues players down, he wanted us to win with class.

And that's the mark of the man.

. *EXCLUSIVE SPEAK TO HERALD SUN PICTURE DESK BEFORE USING* NRL's Melbourne Storm star Cameron Smith will play his 400th game this weekend. He is joined by the AFL 400 Club, Brent Harvey, Dustin Fletcher, Michael Tuck and Kevin Bartlett. Picture: Mark Stewart
Smith is welcomed into the 400-game club by AFL greats Brent Harvey, Dustin Fletcher, Michael Tuck and Kevin Bartlett. Mark Stewart

I've known Cam since we were kids. His parents lived three houses up from my Nan and Pop and we used to play together as kids.

Growing up, we played footy at Logan Brothers at the time Cam was a tall and lanky five-eighth who was definitely talented, but if you would have told me then that he'd go on to play 400 first-grade games I wouldn't have believed you.

It's not that I didn't think he was capable of playing first grade, it's that at that age we weren't worried about playing first grade, we just wanted to play footy.

Growing up in Logan we didn't have much in terms of monetary value but we never went without, either.

Like me, Cam grew up watching his parents, Wayne and Sonia, both salt-of-the-earth people, work their backsides off to provide for their family and it's that same work ethic that has seen Cam achieve what he has in the game.

Smith has played more than 400 games with the Storm. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)
Smith weaves his magic for the Storm. DAVE HUNT

I've never played with anyone that can control a game like Cam can. He's the best player I've played with or against. He doesn't rant and rave, but when he talks, everyone listens.

Cam has achieved every accolade that rugby league has to offer, he's won premierships, Origin series and Tests for Australia, he's won Dally M and Golden Boot awards.

But Cam's greatest achievement is the respect he has earnt from every player and coach who's been lucky enough to share a rugby league field with him.

Don't miss Cam Smith: His Story tonight at 9.45pm following the Storm v Sharks on FOX LEAGUE and streamed on Foxtel Now.