Cameron Smith can kick off a record-breaking end to the rugby league season at Wednesday night’s Dally M Awards, where he is expected to claim the top gong.
With Sunday’s grand final and a World Cup still ahead of him, Smith could become the first player to claim the Dally M, then lead his club and country to premiership and international success.
When votes went behind closed doors, Smith led Mitchell Pearce and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck by five votes, with the pair each having underwhelming finishes to the regular season.
Paul Gallen, Billy Slater and Corey Norman might also threaten, but none had the finish to the season that Smith enjoyed.
In an incredible year that took Melbourne to the top of the NRL ladder by three wins, Smith leads all NRL hookers for points, 40-20s, kick metres, line-break assists and try involvements.
Posing the question – is this the greatest season by a hooker in the modern form of the game?
“Statistics would support that point, the way he is creating opportunities for everyone,” Danny Buderus, the only other hooker to win the Dally M, told AAP.
“I just think everyone is doing their job in that team.
“He’s always in a team that wins football games, whether it’s Australia, state or club. He’s just got success all around him.”
Smith’s ability to find a way to win has never been better represented than this season.
He hasn’t tasted defeat in 118 games, with his last loss coming in the series opener of the State of Origin series.
Since then, Melbourne’s only two defeats came with their captain on the sidelines, while the Maroons also swept to Origin series success.
In total, his season record stands at 23-3 for Melbourne, Queensland and Australia, where he has been captain in each appearance.
Individually, he’s been rewarded too.
He’s already overtaken Darren Lockyer for the most NRL games, has become the first player to make 40 State of Origin appearances, is the first forward to reach 2000 points and also the only member of the 1000-goal club after Friday’s preliminary final win over Brisbane.
Wednesday’s likely Dally M will also come 11 years after his first – the biggest gap on multiple award winners – cementing his position as one of the most durable to have played the game.
“With goal kicks, games played, it seems like he he’s breaking a new record every week,” Buderus said.
“It just keeps coming. He’s just at that point of his career now where he’s just cashing in on all his hard work.
“They’ll keep coming while ever he keeps playing. He’s got a couple of years left in him.”