Before the commencement of the 2003 season, Cameron Smith had played just the two games for the Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders believed he was gettable.
Canberra coach at the time Matt Elliott took Smith on a tour of Canberra and offered him big money to lure him away from the Storm and don a Raiders uniform.
“Cameron’s dad Wayne was our development and recruitment person at Souths Logan,” Elliott told The Daily Telegraph.
“The Raiders owned the Souths Logan Leagues Club. He said in the most modest way ‘you should have a look at my son he is playing for Norths’. I went and watched him play twice.
“He was playing hooker and I thought he was good. I didn’t see Cooper Cronk or Billy Slater who were in the same team. Cameron was super impressive so we got him to Canberra.”
Elliot was hopeful that the larger money offered to Smith by the Raiders would be enough to get him over the line, but it didn't end up that way.
“When you’re 19 and someone offers you significantly more – we were talking $30,000 or $40,000 more than what he was getting, it normally seals the deal,” Elliott said.
“The truth was he just said ‘I’m at Norths and Melbourne have done so much for me, I don’t think it would be the right thing not to go to Melbourne’.
“He rang me directly, not his manager. In all my time coaching only two people have done that – Smith and Stephen Kearney. He said he appreciated all that I’d done and highly valued it but Melbourne have done everything for him.
“The way he handled the situation was all class. I’ve always been a fan ever since.”
Smith is now set to feature in his 429th first grade game for the Melbourne Storm against the Canberra Raiders in their preliminary final clash on Friday night, which could also be his last.