Media figure Yvonne Sampson has backed the possibility of Cameron Smith playing a 20th NRL season after a short stint in retirement.
The Fox Sports presenter said she “can’t see” the NRL legend fading away from the rugby league world after he announced his decision to retire from the game on Wednesday.
Speaking to the Big Sports Breakfast, Sampson said the 37-year-old could “absolutely” return to the NRL in 2022, and could even be back in the game before the August 1 deadline this year.
“Absolutely, he could do anything, because he truly is the GOAT,” Sampson said.
“Of course he could. I’m not ruling out the fact that we wouldn’t see him before August 1.
“People have retired before — they’re drawing comparisons between when Alfie (Langer) came back in 2001, Sonny Bill Williams has come back, Freddy (Fittler) came back out of retirement.
“I think Cameron Smith will deserve this time off just to relax and live the life that he probably has always envisaged for his family.
“But just knowing the competitor we have witnessed over the last 20 years, it’s going to be hard for a future Immortal to just get into the daily grind of lunches, peak hour traffic.
“Do I think Cameron will just sort of fade into oblivion? I can’t see it.
“He thinks he’s just going to do paddleboarding and live the good life and play golf up around the Gold Coast in Queensland, but I think it’s very clear to everyone that he was struggling with this, even at 37-years-old, because he still has that desire to play.”
The Fox Sports host also discussed the timing of Smith’s announcement on Wednesday, given it came on the eve of the NRL season from a man that was seemingly trying to avoid the spotlight.
“I was focusing on the start of the premiership season. Good timing by our old friend Cameron Smith there,” Sampson said.
“I know a lot’s been said about it but it is funny to read, ‘I’m such a recluse, I could have easily just wandered off into the sunset and not said anything’, yet you chose 24 hours out from kick off. Very, very interesting.”
Smith was back in Melbourne for the unveiling of his statue in front of AAMI Park this week, after buying a house on the Gold Coast and moving there with his family last year.
Smith said before his retirement announcement he had to go via his Melbourne home to pick up a suit after spending the past four months rotating three T-shirts and three pairs of shorts.
Looking tanned and as fit as he has for the past 19 seasons, Smith says he struggled with his decision because mentally and physically he felt up to another year.
But he realised there was plenty more to life than a football field.
“I tried to pick the brains of my mates like Billy (Slater) about how they came to the conclusion it was the right time to finish their playing career,” Smith said.
“But once I spent good quality time with my family up in Queensland I knew that it was the right time to finish and it gives me time to enjoy what’s going to be the next chapter of my life.
“I’ve just been trying to spend as much time as I can with my kids and wife and we go paddle-boarding and I get to take them to school and pick them up and attend things in their life that I wasn’t able to do when I was playing rugby league.
“Plus I can play a lot more golf which I’m quite happy about.
“Having that time to myself and with my family helped me make that decision and not having to give up the things I’ve given up for a long, long time.”
He’s already had talks with Storm chair Matt Tripp and coach Craig Bellamy about his future with the club, with talk of a board position and/or coaching and mentoring roles.
Brisbane and Gold Coast would also jump at his involvement as would media organisations.
“I’d love to stay involved in some capacity but the next step is to let the dust settle for a little bit,” Smith said.
“I’ve played rugby league since I was six so it’s something I enjoy being around.
“It’s given me a whole heap and it’s my opportunity to give back in some way but what that will be I’m not too sure.”