Melbourne Storm great Cameron Smith has finally announced he is retiring, confirming his playing days are over at the unveiling of his statue outside AAMI Park.
His announcement brings to a close an extraordinary 19-season NRL career that has the 37-year-old touted as a future rugby league Immortal.
Smith says he only made a decision last week and thought the unveiling would be the perfect spot to make it public.
He told coach Craig Bellamy and long-time football manager Frank Ponissi on Wednesday morning before letting his teammates and club staff know just before the statue formalities.
Smith said he was "wrestling with the idea" for some time.
"I've spent a few months up in Queensland with the family and had really good opportunities to think over my thoughts on playing on or not," Smith said on Wednesday.
"I look back on my career and found I was very fortunate to be part of a wonderful organisation filled with many great footballers and great people and it felt like the right time to finish off the back of what was a very successful season last year."
The Brisbane-born hooker made his NRL debut with Melbourne in 2002 and has played a record 430 games; the only player in history to surpass 400.
It was Smith's first official Storm appearance since their 2020 grand final win over Penrith and comes just a day out from the club's NRL season opener against South Sydney.
It will be the first time Smith hasn't appeared in a Melbourne round one team since 2003.
Smith said he won't be at the game as it's his oldest daughter Jada's 13th birthday but he intends returning to a home match to farewell the Storm faithful.
He's the last to retire of Melbourne's so-called "Big Three", that included Cooper Cronk and Billy Slater, who were so integral to the club's sustained success.
Slater's statue, also unveiled Wednesday, sits alongside Smith's.
"Cam is not only among the most decorated players the game has ever seen, he made an immeasurable contribution to our club on and off the field, and his legacy will be remembered in Melbourne forever," the Storm posted on Twitter.
Smith also holds the NRL record for the most points scored with 2786, including 14 in last year's grand final.
Among his other honours are two Dally M Medals, in 2006 and 2017, and two Golden Boot awards, for the player adjudged to be the best in the world, in 2007 and 2017.
Playing in eight grand finals, Smith steered the Storm to NRL premierships in 2007, 2009, 2012, 2017 and 2020, although the first two titles were later stripped for salary-cap breaches.
The durable hooker was also instrumental in Queensland's eight-year State of Origin reign between 2006 and 2013, while he was represented Australia from 2006 until his retirement from representative football at the end of 2017.
Named Kangaroos' captain in 2012, he played in 56 Tests, winning 49.
Smith was believed to have been courted by Brisbane, for a final season to help resurrect the embattled former powerhouse club while the Gold Coast were also mentioned as a possible farewell destination.
He relocated his family to the Gold Coast but has decided to hang up his boots instead as a one-club player.