It is the end of an era in Melbourne and the NRL.

Cameron Smith – arguably rugby league's greatest ever player – ended speculation over his future by announcing his retirement on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old star and future Immortal retires a one-club player – Smith was out of contract following 18 years with Melbourne Storm.

After Smith officially put an end to his playing career midweek, we look into the numbers behind the Storm, Queensland Maroons and Australia legend thanks to Opta.

 

430 – Smith holds the record for most NRL games following a glittering career in the Australian competition, having debuted for the Storm in 2002. He is the only player to have amassed over 400 appearances.

310 – He also holds the record for most wins in premiership matches. Of those victories, 242 were as skipper – the most as a captain.

2,786 – No player has scored more points in NRL premiership history than the hooker, well ahead of Hazem El Masri (2,418) and Johnathan Thurston (2,222).

1,295 – Smith stands alone for goals kicked in the NRL – 353 more than any other player in premiership history.

16,913 – Not just an elite kicker, Smith tallied the most tackles by any player since the beginning of the NRL era in 1998.

3 – Smith ends his NRL career with Premierships in 2012, 2017 and 2020. It could have been five, but the Storm were stripped of Grand Final triumphs in 2007 and 2009 due to salary-cap breaches.

42 – A Maroons veteran, he is the most-capped player in State of Origin history. Smith first appeared for Queensland in 2003.

56 – Smith represented Australia more than fifty times. Only Darren Lockyer (59) managed more than Smith for the Kangaroos.

33 – Lockyer (38) is the only player to have captained Australia on more occasions than Smith, who led the country to Rugby League World Cup glory in 2013 and 2017.

2 – Smith was crowned the NRL's best and fairest player in 2006 and 2017. Only Thurston (four) and Andrew Johns (three) earned more honours.

Melbourne Storm and NRL great Cameron Smith officially announced his retirement from rugby league on Wednesday.

There had been ongoing speculation over Smith's future, with the NRL's most-capped player linked with both Brisbane Broncos and Gold Coast Titans after relocating from Melbourne.

But the 37-year-old star will retire a one-club player after a record 430 games with the Storm, three NRL Premierships and two Dally M Medals.

Smith also captained Australia to Rugby League World Cup success in 2013 and 2017.

"I've spent a few months now up in Queensland with the family. For me I look back on my career and just found that I'm very fortunate to be part of an organisation with great people and footballers," Smith said ahead of the 2021 season, which gets underway on Thursday.

"It felt like the right time after the finish to last year. You couldn't have asked for more than finishing with a premiership at a club I've played my whole career."

Smith was out of contract following 18 years with the Storm in Melbourne.

The 42-time Queensland Maroons legend, who earned 56 caps for Australia, led the Storm to NRL glory last year.

"I've been wrestling with the decision for quite some time. In the weeks after the season had finished guys like Billy [Slater] and guys I've grown quite close to, just trying to talk to them about my situation and how they came to the conclusion as to when it was the right time," Smith said.

"After last year winning the Premiership I still felt good physically and mentally. I still thought my form was good enough to play in the NRL but after spending time with my family in Queensland I knew it was the right time to finish.

"It's a chance to enjoy the next phase in my life and hopefully it's still in rugby league in some capacity. In my head I probably made the decision a week ago but knowing the unveiling was today and I was going to be in Melbourne I thought it was a good time to announce my decision.

"I started here with Billy at Olympic [AAMI] Park in 2002 so this is where I wanted to end it. Given the amount of time I've spent here and what I've built with Billy, Cooper [Cronk], Ryan Hoffman, Jesse Bromwich ... guys who have put in effort to build the Storm as an organisation.

"As a rookie I always thought I wanted to be a one-club player. Sometimes those choices are taken away from you but thankfully I've been able to do that for 19 years here."

Storm head coach Craig Bellamy added: "I think he's the greatest player I've ever seen. For what he's done, no one has gone over 400 NRL games and 100 rep games, and the success as captain it's quite remarkable.

"I can't see it happening again. It's hard to describe his effect on our club and the game. The biggest thing is how long he's done it for. When he told me this morning I was always genuine in that I said last year he deserved the right to make a decision when he was ready.

"For me the most important thing was that Cameron and his family be happy and I stand by that.

"It would've been strange for me to watch him in another jumper but that's obviously not going to happen. At the same time I still would've been his number one supporter even if he was playing against us.

"Hopefully we can keep Cameron around the club. If we can get him to give advice to our ruck plays and dummy half, his leadership is unparalleled."

Melbourne Storm great Cameron Smith will not play for Gold Coast Titans in the 2021 NRL season, according to Mal Meninga.

It remains to seen what the future holds for Smith, who is yet to publicly confirm his plans after guiding the Storm to premiership last year.

Out of contract following 18 years in Melbourne, Smith reportedly relocated to Queensland at the end of the season and the 37-year-old has been linked with the Titans as well as Brisbane Broncos.

With speculation mounting over Smith's status, his former State of Origin and Australia head coach Meninga – now head of performance and culture with the Titans – insisted the ex-Kangaroos skipper will not be moving to Gold Coast.

"I've not talked to Cameron. He's the hardest bloke to get hold of in the world," said Meninga.

"I've not spoken to him – not has anyone from the club.

"Everyone assumes he's coming to the Titans. I haven't talked to him, he's not on the radar.

"You should ask Kevvie [Broncos head coach Kevin Walters] about Cameron so I don't have to answer these questions anymore."

Broncos coach Walters could be an interested party were Smith to delay his retirement plans, but Meninga rubbished reports that emerged last week linking him with the Titans.

Meninga told the Courier Mail: "I don't have any idea what Cam is doing. I don't know if he's retiring.

"I'm in the dark like everyone else. But I know he won't be at the Titans."

Israel Folau is no longer wanted by St George Illawarra Dragons after the NRL club confirmed it had ceased discussions to sign the former Australia international.

Folau, whose Rugby Australia contract was terminated in 2019 for a "high-level breach" after the 31-year-old posted hell awaits "drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters" on Instagram, plies his trade with Super League outfit Catalans Dragons.

But St George Illawarra had been looking to lure him back to his home country, with the club having approached the NRL over the matter.

However, a brief statement released by the club on Wednesday revealed the chase was now at an end.

"While the Dragons did enquire about signing Folau, the club can confirm that such discussions have now ceased," it read.

Folau's move to Catalans in January last year prompted widespread criticism, with head coach Steve McNamara confessing: "We knew it would be controversial."

 

New Zealand Warriors captain Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will switch codes at the end of the 2021 NRL season with the aim of playing for the All Blacks in the Rugby World Cup.

Talismanic full-back Tuivasa-Sheck, 27, has been granted an early release from his Warriors contract to try and force his way into the New Zealand squad for the 2023 showpiece in France.

The 2018 Dally M Player of the Year and two-time Dally M Fullback of the Year expressed gratitude to the Warriors for allowing him to move to the 15-man format.

"This will be my last year with the club and yes, I will be moving to NZ rugby next year," Tuivasa-Sheck said during a press conference on Saturday.

"The club has been supportive in the request and giving me the option to explore.

"Rugby [union] has been the game I've grown up playing. It's always been there in the background. It's always been there, it's no secret. 

"To do it now in a time like this and have the club's support, that's why I chose it now. But rugby is down the line and all that stuff will happen later in the year.

"2021 is my focus, I'm excited about this year and so should the Warriors and NRL fans be.

"There's still a lot of goals I'm chasing [in league] and that's what I'm trying to do this year with the club. We've got a great group here and coaching staff to do something special this year."

Wayne Bennett will not continue as coach of Queensland for the 2021 State of Origin series so he can focus on his job at South Sydney Rabbitohs. 

Bennett returned to lead the Maroons in October of last year, taking on the role after Kevin Walters had stepped down following his appointment at Brisbane Broncos. 

Queensland went on to win 2-1 - beating New South Wales 20-14 in the deciding game in Brisbane - but the search is now on for a new coach ahead of this year's series.

"We were really grateful that Wayne made himself available to help us out last year," Queensland Rugby League managing director Robert Moore said in a statement. 

"We understand the decision Wayne has made in his last year of his contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as he's eager to concentrate his efforts on them because they've been so close [to a premiership]," Moore said. 

"With Wayne's decision, we've now moved to a process to consider the next appointment and we anticipate that process will be completed early this year." 

The Origin games are scheduled to take place in June and July, having been shifted to after the NRL season last year due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Australia international Josh Addo-Carr will join Canterbury Bulldogs on a four-year deal from 2022, leaving Melbourne Storm.

Addo-Carr will depart Melbourne at the end of next season, having already won two NRL premierships with the Storm.

A nine-time New South Wales representative who has also played for the Kangaroos twice, Addo-Carr's move to the Bulldogs was confirmed on Wednesday after the wing was linked to numerous clubs.

"Having someone like Josh choose to join the Bulldogs after being the target of a number of clubs is another sign that we are gradually piecing together a squad that has the right mix of experience and quality," Canterbury chief executive Andrew Hill said in a statement.

"Josh has been a proven performer at whatever level he has played and he will bring those elements of speed and strike power that all clubs are looking for in their backline.

"Josh becomes another leader in our group and will bring the sort of winning attitude that the club is looking to create here at Belmore.

"We look forward to him joining us for the 2022 season and wish him all the best for next season."

Addo-Carr has scored 73 tries in 96 NRL games for Melbourne, having crossed for six in nine during his season with Wests Tigers in 2016.

The 25-year-old said he was looking forward to another season in Melbourne.

"I'm relieved to have finally sorted out my playing future and can now focus on making my last year with Storm another one to remember," Addo-Carr said.

"I owe so much to this club and have so many great friends and memories that have made me the person I am today.

"I now can't wait to get back into training with the boys and playing at AAMI Park in front of all our fans who didn't get to see us this year."

A two-point field goal will be introduced in the NRL from next year in one of several changes approved ahead of the 2021 season.

The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) announced the rule changes on Friday, with some continuing on from 2020.

The most notable change is the introduction of a two-point field goal if teams convert from outside the 40-metre line.

Ten-metre infringement penalties will be replaced with a 'six again' ruling, while there has been a crackdown on scrums.

Players cannot break from a scrum until a referee's call, with a penalty awarded if they do – and a second infringement if the scrum is repacked would see a player sent to the sin bin.

Games will also resume with a play the ball rather than a scrum when the ball is kicked or carried into touch.

"These innovations will lead to less stoppages, more unpredictability and increased excitement for our fans," ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said.

"The message from the fans and our broadcasters has been clear – the game became too predictable and the balance between attack and defence had gone too far in favour of defence.

"Our changes last year were successful in addressing some of those challenges and the changes announced today will take the element of unpredictability and entertainment a step further."

V'landys believes the introduction of a two-point field goal will encourage teams to be more attacking.

"Providing the opportunity for a two-point play will give teams incentive to make attacking plays to get into field goal range at the end of a half," he said.

"It will also ensure teams who are down by one or two points in the dying moments of a match have a better opportunity to win a game or go to golden point."

Wests Tigers head coach Michael Maguire has extended his contract with the club until the end of the 2023 NRL season.

Maguire is set to become the second longest serving coach in Tigers history, behind Tim Sheens, after signing a deal for 2022 and 2023, having already been contracted for next year.

Former South Sydney Rabbitohs coach Maguire has led the Tigers in 44 games, winning 18, since taking charge last year.

Also coach of New Zealand, Maguire, 46, was happy to extend his stay with the Tigers.

"I'm really pleased to be able to re-sign with Wests Tigers," he said.

"We've put a lot of work in over the last couple of years and I’m seeing plenty of change for the club to move forward in a big way.

"We're all not happy with where we've been and everything we do now is about moving us forward towards a premiership.

"I love the people here and the passion around the organisation.

"The more I see people with a connection Wests Tigers, the more I see the hunger for success. This is a massive club with an incredibly rich history, and we're all determined to grow this year into a really strong season."

The Tigers have missed the finals in each of Maguire's two seasons at the helm so far, finishing ninth and 11th in 2019 and 2020 respectively.

Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe believes the club are heading in the right direction under Maguire.

"As a club, we're really thrilled with the appointment of Michael," he said.

"Not only does this provide him with further security, it also provides our entire football program with a strong sense of direction. We have absolute faith in Michael and our football department in the sustainable team they are building here.

"Michael is a fierce competitor, and we love that. He shares the same set of values that our club is built on with his drive and passion for success.

"Together, we are building a football department, a team and a club that our members and fans are proud of and Michael is certainly the right man to continue that."

Manly Sea Eagles prop Keith Titmuss has died at the age of 20 after falling ill following a pre-season training session, the NRL side have confirmed.

Titmuss was considered one of Manly's rising stars after emerging through their junior ranks and was part of the 30-man squad for next season.

He was taken from training in Narrabeen to Northern Beaches Hospital on Monday before being transferred to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he passed away.

Manly announced the tragedy in a statement on their official website and coach Des Hasler added: "We are all devastated by this news.

"Keith was a very popular character amongst the playing group. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten by the Sea Eagles."

Titmuss scored the match-winning try for the Sea Eagles in the 2017 NYC Grand Final and was named the Manly Jersey Flegg Cup Players' Player in 2019.

The NRL side's CEO Stephen Humphreys said: "Our club sends its deepest condolences to Keith's family and friends and will provide them with all of the support they need during this difficult period.

"We are working with the NRL's Wellbeing team to offer support and counselling to our playing group and staff."

The 2021 NRL campaign is scheduled to begin on March 11.

Hull KR have signed Ryan Hall on a two-year deal after the England international left Sydney Roosters. 

The former Leeds Rhinos winger left the Super League club two years ago to head to the NRL. 

However, problems with injuries restricted the 32-year-old to just 11 appearances during his time with the Roosters. 

Hall, six times a Super League Grand Final winner who also twice lifted the Challenge Cup with Leeds, is now excited to return to "familiar territory" under former Rhinos coach Tony Smith. 

"I loved my time over in Australia it was a great experience for me and my family. But I'm back to more familiar territory now, back in England and Super League," he told the club's official website. 

"I started off under Tony Smith, he gave me my debut at Leeds and then again with England, and also he's going to hopefully give me my debut for Hull KR as well.

"It's pretty cool and familiarity is a comforting thing, so as long as I get settled in as soon as possible I can get back to playing my best rugby. With my relationship with Tony and Danny McGuire, that should come pretty easily." 

Smith added: "Ryan had a number of choices in front of him, and he's chosen us, so we are delighted about that. I've worked with him before, and the amount he's learnt from his NRL experience since is enormous. 

"Roosters head coach Trent Robinson speaks of him highly. He's going to bring a wealth of experience to us. He's bought into the concept of improving our programme and he's got a strong desire to pass on his knowledge to others. 

"Anyone who knows Ryan will know he takes care of himself unbelievably well, he's in really good condition, he's got a body younger than most. He'll be a real asset to us and I'm delighted that he's decided to join us to be part of our rejuvenation."

AJ Brimson will not feature again in the 2020 State of Origin series, having suffered a foot injury after scoring on his Queensland debut.

Brimson helped turn the tide in Wednesday's 18-14 Game I win over New South Wales, scoring the Maroons' first points with a second-half try after the Blues had tallied a 10-point lead at the break.

The Gold Coast Titans fullback was among eight Queensland players making their bows, yet his involvement in the series is over.

"Scans confirmed a Lisfranc ligament injury, which will rule AJ out of the rest of the series," Maroons team doctor Matt Hislop said.

"A specialist surgeon has been consulted and initial advice is for him to remain in camp."

Brimson added: "I was stoked to make my Origin debut and to get the win was an incredible feeling.

"I've got great belief in the squad and we're really well-placed to go on and win the series."

There was better news on team-mate Kurt Capewell, another debutant whose unorthodox kick created Brimson's crucial try.

Capewell had been battling groin tightness prior to Wednesday's game, but Hislop said: "Kurt aggravated his symptoms during the game. However, his scans are reassuring.

"We anticipate he will respond to further treatment and be available for Game II."

NSW have their own injury problems, meanwhile, with Cameron Murray joining Brimson in being ruled out of the series.

The South Sydney Rabbitohs lock, who was part of last year's winning side, sustained a hamstring injury just five minutes after being introduced in the first half of Origin I.

Jack Wighton has a leg problem but is set to make Game II.

Daly Cherry-Evans hailed the impact of returning Queensland coach Wayne Bennett after he was named man of the match in the Maroons' Origin I win over New South Wales.

Wednesday's 2020 State of Origin opener - delayed until after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic - saw Queensland record a surprise victory, overturning a 10-point deficit to win 18-14 in Adelaide.

Manly Sea Eagles’ Cherry-Evans edged out impressive rookie Kurt Capewell for the MVP award after converting tries from Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates and Cameron Munster.

Queensland trailed 10-0 at half-time but ultimately prevailed with Bennett – who is being supported by Mal Meninga and Neil Henry - rewarded for his bold call to play eight debutants.

The Maroons are now well placed to prevent NSW from winning a third straight series.

"I never have been coached by Wayne before and he has a presence about him," said Maroons captain Cherry-Evans. 

"We are that lucky with the coaching staff we have got that they have coached a lot of big games.

"They definitely did a lot of the settling of the nerves during the week. It allowed me to just concentrate on being the halfback, which was good.

"Mal, I have been lucky enough to be coached by him and he definitely has a presence amongst him. 

"It is not unnerving or unsettling, but it makes you comfortable and sure of yourself. We had that. I could [feel their presence]."

Asked what Bennett had said to inspire a turnaround at half-time, Cherry-Evans said: "To be more direct. Once we got those messages and clarity, I thought that we found our groove."

Munster, meanwhile, felt the Maroons had provided the perfect answer to their critics.

"There is a lot of hunger in that group and no one gave us a chance," said Munster, who recently celebrated NRL Grand Final glory with Melbourne Storm.

"We just dug deep, just completing sets and kicking to the corners - that is what we did."

After Queensland had scored 18 unanswered points, Josh Addo-Carr crossed for his second try of the match with five minutes to go as NSW moved to within one score of victory.

Munster attempted to keep the young team calm, adding: "I was pretty much swearing, 'Boys, you cannot lose it'. 

"We needed to dig deep - the Blues are a great outfit and they can score all over the field. We just needed to get up."

Queensland overturned a first-half deficit to strike first in the 2020 State of Origin with an 18-14 defeat of New South Wales in Wednesday's series opener. 

The Maroons lost last year but seized the initiative as the latest edition - delayed until after the NRL season due to the coronavirus pandemic - got under way with the first ever Origin match in Adelaide. 

An inexperienced line-up had to show plenty of spirit as a one-two punch from the Blues saw Damien Cook and Josh Addo-Carr cross in quick succession to claim a 10-0 lead at the interval. 

But Queensland stuck to their task and were good value for victory as an excellent second period saw Alexander Brimson, Xavier Coates and Cameron Munster all on the scoresheet, with Addo-Carr's late second try unable to rescue a result before attention turns towards Sydney next week.

Cook's knock-on from the kick-off epitomised an untidy start as Addo-Carr was squeezed out in the corner at one end before Daly Cherry-Evans skewed a penalty wide in the absence of a regular Queensland kicker. 

The game remained scoreless until the 16th minute when Cook gathered his own kick and bundled over for a breakthrough Blues try against the run of play. 

They took control thereafter and a more accomplished move from left to right allowed Addo-Carr to brush off Brimson's attempted tackle and stretch their advantage. 

But the Maroons stayed in touch and two debutants combined for a response 10 minutes after half-time, Kurt Capewell's awkward kick bouncing kindly into the clutches of Brimson for his first Origin score.

And the game was soon turned on its head when Dane Gagai's powerful running created space for Coates - another man making his bow at this level - to dash in on the right, with the extras from Cherry-Evans securing a first Queensland lead. 

Determined not to cede control just as their rivals had, the Maroons kept the pressure on and were rewarded as Munster toed the ball away from a scrambling Nathan Cleary and held off Cook to score. 

The Blues found a new burst of life in the final 10 minutes and belatedly moved with some urgency to again find Addo-Carr, who was able to dot down. 

Felise Kaufusi headed for the sin bin with 13 seconds remaining as NSW attempted an improbable recovery, but the reigning champions were left with too much to do.

South Sydney Rabbitohs released James Roberts from the final year of his contract on compassionate grounds, the NRL side announced on Tuesday.

The Rabbitohs said the decision was agreed by both the star center and the club as Roberts focuses on his health and family.

Roberts – a former New South Wales State of Origin representative – entered a facility to get support with his health in May.

"With the support of Souths, I am working closely with professionals to get myself healthy and into a position where I can play my best footy and support my family," Roberts said in a statement.

"Souths have been very supportive during this period, helping me to focus on the recovery from my pec injury and providing support for Anna, me and the kids."

Roberts swapped Brisbane Broncos for the Rabbitohs in 2019 and made 12 appearances in his first season back with South Sydney.

The 27-year-old, who first played for the Rabbitohs in 2011 before leaving for Penrith Panthers in 2013, was limited to just six games this season, scoring one try as South Sydney reached the Preliminary Final.

"We've held many discussions and meetings with James, his family and his representatives over recent months about a path forward for James," said Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly.

"James is an elite athlete and he certainly could play at the highest levels of the game in the NRL again.

"James and his family will always be Rabbitohs, and we will continue to support them as he looks to continue his career."

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