Cameron Smith is set to play his 400th game this weekend, and the NRL universe is in overdrive for it.
Already the games record holder, Smith is about to enter into completely uncharted territory in rugby league stakes – becoming the first player to ever reach 400 games within the NRL.
The impressive honour only adds to Smith’s running list of achievements in the game, which includes two Dally M Medals and four premiership triumphs – albeit two of those stripped for the salary cap breaches.
Smith debuted all the way back in 2002, and his longevity in the game will ensure that he is forever remembered and ingrained in NRL history.
Not many in Australian sport have managed to have a lengthy career-span quite like Smith has, so we’ve decided to take you through some of the most notably long careers over the years via the AFL, NBL and NRL. Some of the numbers they’ve managed to notch up have been extraordinary.
Unlike the NRL, the AFL has been able to witness four of its players reach the rare 400-game mark, with Brent Harvey (432), Michael Tuck (426), Kevin Bartlett (403) and Dustin Fletcher (400) all reaching the summit with storied careers over their time in the game.
Tuck, a four-time premiership captain for Hawthorn, held the record-holder label for 25 years, until ‘Boomer’ finally surpassed him, in a career that spanned 21 seasons and included a premiership in 1999.
Essendon legend Dustin Fletcher holds the record for most seasons in the game, lasting an outrageous 23 years from 1993 until his retirement in 2015. He is also the second oldest player to ever play the game, retiring aged 40. He sits only behind Vic Cumberland, who played for the Demons aged 43 in 1920.
To put Fletcher’s effort into context; in his final year in football in 2015, 12 of his teammates weren’t even born when Fletcher made his debut!
The NBL certainly haven’t lacked a number of players having a good innings, with many being able to generate longstanding careers in the game. Some of these include Tony Ronaldson, Andrew Gaze and Leroy Loggins.
Tony Ronaldson is the most capped sportsman in any professional Australian league, with 665 games to his name. He played in the NBL from 1990-2010 and played for five clubs in the competition, winning two championships.
As well as featuring in the NBA – where he was part of the San Antonio Spurs’ championship winning team in 1999 – Andrew Gaze amassed 612 games during his 21-year stint for the Melbourne Tigers from 1984 to 2005. In that time he was able to garner two championships and seven MVP awards.
The 53-year-old is widely recognised as one of the greatest players Australia has ever produced.
While nobody before Smith has ever reached the elusive 400-game mark, there have certainly been a few that have come close over the years.
Smith’s former teammate Cooper Cronk comes second on the list for most games, currently sitting at 364 games. Cronk debuted in 2004, and along with Smith was central to the years of sustained success that the Storm has achieved over the years.
Cronk, a two-time Dally M Medalist, played 325 games for the Storm, before moving to the Sydney Roosters and grabbing another premiership medal, after the Roosters’ triumph over his former club in the 2018 Grand Final.
Darren Lockyer is another of the more recognisable players in NRL history, playing 355 games for the Brisbane Broncos from 1995-2011.
A one-club player, Lockyer won three NRL premierships during his lengthy tenure with the Broncos. The 42-year-old also had a lengthy spell with Queensland, and is widely seen as one of the greatest Maroons players ever.