Smith's brain key to NRL record: Slater
Cameron Smith of the Melbourne Storm will play his 400th game this weekend (AAP Image/James Ross)
Cameron Smith's brain is the real secret to his record NRL longevity and durability, according to his long-time former Melbourne teammate Billy Slater.
Born on the same day 36 years ago, Slater said Smith's achievement in clocking up 400 games - which he will reach on Saturday when the Storm takes on Cronulla - was "ridiculous".
When Slater debuted Smith had played three NRL games.
Six months after Slater's retirement on 323 games, Smith has played the equivalent of almost four more seasons and is still going.
The former Test and Queensland fullback alongside Smith, Slater said the hooker's smarts were the key to his longevity which has stretched to 18 seasons.
"He's a really smart player so he can go there and play a game of football and know where he can get out of contact and where he has to put himself in contact so I think that's helped him throughout his years," Slater said on Tuesday.
"To play 400 games is ridiculous - Benji Marshall and Gavin Cooper are playing their 300th this week and that's a huge achievement in the most brutal sport in the world.
"And then you've got this bloke playing 400 and he's still the best player in the world.
"He's a remarkable football player and he's a great guy whose got time for everyone, time for his teammates and he makes other players better - he's made the club a better club."
Slater didn't see any reason why Smith should follow him into retirement with the Storm skipper avoiding the serious injuries that plagued his own career.
"He's still enjoying his footy ... he's the best passer, the best kicker, he's got the best attributes a rugby league player can have.
"He doesn't rely on speed so he can continue his game if he does lose a bit and he's just so durable - he's just one hell of a player."
Storm newcomer Ryan Papenhuyzen, who made his debut in round four, felt fortunate to play alongside Smith in his 400th.
"I watched him as a little kid so it's pretty special to be a part of it," the 21-year-old said.
"It's more excitement around the group than pressure to play well."
He said apart from all else, he valued the composure and leadership that Smith brought to the team.
"A couple of weeks against the Wests Tigers when we were down he pulled us in - he trusts his game plan and what he's done over the years and that feeds through to everyone.
"He knows the right thing to do and we work off the back of that."
© AAP 2019