Incoming Warriors coach Nathan Brown believes Storm skipper Cameron Smith shouldn’t be crowned the greatest player of all time.
Smith has been the hottest topic in rugby league news for the last couple of months due to the uncertainty surrounding his future and it’s reignited the debate of whether the 37-year-old is the greatest rugby league player of all time.
As a two-time premiership-winning captain, nine-time Dally M Hooker of the Year, two-time Golden Boot winner and the first player to reach the 400-game milestone, Smith makes a very strong case.
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However Brown believes it would be inaccurate to crown any one player with the honour. He does think Smith deserves a slightly different one though.
“I believe that it’s generational and I say that because the way the game evolves and the way that different players and coaches learn from people in the past and then add to it…That’s how rugby league evolves or how tennis evolves or how AFL evolves,” he told Triple M.
“My point is that in any code, I don’t believe we have the greatest.
“I believe we have the greatest of a generation and I don’t think anyone would argue that Cameron Smith is the greatest of this generation, but I think any one person being considered the greatest, a lot of their game evolved from the people and coaches before them.”
Brown elaborated on how the game and in particular a hooker’s role has evolved over the years. He believes Balmain Tigers legend Benny Elias actually paved the way for Smith to have such an impact on the current game.
“If we look at Cameron Smith and the art of dummy half I suppose, the way the game changed and who actually changed the way dummy half was played was actually Benny Elias,” Brown said.
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“Dummy half was more about hooking for the ball and just throwing the ball off the ground to forwards. Benny Elias was the first hooker who played like a halfback and if Benny didn’t start that tradition, Cameron Smith may have been what a lot of other hookers were back in the days, a slower half or five-eighth.
“If you look at Benny Elias, he was the first one that really changed the way the game was played. Kids then liked the way that was done and a lot of blokes that played first grade in the coming years after that were kids who played five-eighth or halfback that probably didn’t have the speed or whatever was required to be a top half, they said ‘our best option is to go to hooker and play like Benny Elias’.”
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Brown, who has coached the Dragons, Knights and two Super League teams before joining the Warriors next season, also believes it’s a similar situation with coaches too.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy is widely regarded the greatest coach of the last 20 years and by some, of all time. But Brown pointed out the cycle of coaches that has helped Bellamy become the successful mentor he is.
“The next advantage people get off that is different coaches learn from how Benny played, what plays worked for him and then they add to them,” he said.
“Tim Sheens to my knowledge was the first coach to actually have the hooker as one of the main controllers of play. For years it was No.7 and No.6 but I think Sheensy was one of the first coaches that really had the dummy half control the team with Steve Walters and then obviously he did that with Robbie (Farah).
“Then Cameron Smith comes along and he has the advantage of the great coach that is ‘Bellyache’ (Bellamy) who one of his great mentors was Tim Sheens and that’s how the game evolves.
“If you look at coaching now, I think we’d all agree that the best coach of the past 20 years has been Craig Bellamy, but before that Wayne Bennett won six and before that there was Jack Gibson.
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“Jack Gibson mentored Wayne Bennett, who did Bennett work with? Craig Bellamy and Bellamy worked with Tim Sheens — another one of our great coaches.
“Wayne had an advantage over Jack because he got all of Jack’s good advice and learns how to use that, then he gets his own stuff and that’s how you gain experience. That’s how the cycle works.
“That’s why I personally like to talk about who’s the best of a generation.”
Brown declared himself a big supporter of Smith but believes the champion hooker wouldn’t have been as good as he is had he played in a different era.
“I’m one of Cameron Smith’s biggest fans.
“Saying someone is the greatest, I just think if Cameron Smith was born in the 80s he couldn’t have been the player that is today.
“He wouldn’t have gotten the same opportunities because the coaches wouldn’t have known how to help introduce him into the game as effectively.”
MATTY JOHNS PODCAST – Matty, Blocker and Kenty rate the Raiders & Bunnies season, preview the Grand Final, and ask the question….is Cameron Smith the greatest?