It was the NRL record Cameron Smith almost didn’t break.
Smith re-wrote the history books for the umpteenth time on Wednesday when he became the oldest player to claim the Dally M medal, 11 years after winning his first.
Ahead of Sunday’s grand final against North Queensland, Smith beat Cowboys rival Michael Morgan by eight points to be crowned the game’s best player this year.
Manly legend Cliff Lyons was 33 when he wore the medal in 1994.
However, a 34-year-old Smith took out his second in a year where he also overtook Darren Lockyer’s record for most games and became the first to 40 State of Origin matches.
He also became the first forward to reach 2000 points and is the only player to kick 1000 goals, however Smith was too humble to label this season as the best of his career.
“I don’t sit back at the end of each year and compare it to others,” Smith said.
“Playing in a team that’s only lost four games all season, that certainly helps with my performances, but I’ve been happy with my involvement this year.
“I’ve taken my opportunities more this year than I ever have. I think that’s all I’ve ever tried to do – help the team in every way I can or any way I can. And it’s paid off this year for me.”
The Storm captain admitting thinking he couldn’t add to his first medal in 2006.
“I’d just turned 23, I’d been in the game for three years and if you asked me back then I was really happy with the way I played in 2006,” he said.
“Thinking now, you probably start each year thinking I’m past the opportunity to win a Dally M.
“But you just never know. When you’re enjoying yourself and having fun and competing every week, then strange things can happen. This has happened now and I’m really pleased.”
Smith’s latest achievement comes despite fears players would boycott the awards night due to the player union’s drawn-out collective bargaining agreement talks with the NRL.
Such an act would’ve denied Smith a chance at winning the medal, although the RLPA president is confident a deal would be agreed on after the grand final.
“I think not attending a night like this, it hurts players and fans more than anything,” Smith said.
“And to make things clear, we never said there was going to be a boycott of the Dally Ms. It was an option we had if the NRL didn’t come to the table and have more discussions with the RLPA.
“Thankfully (NRL boss Todd Greenberg) was very accommodating. He put a lot of time over the last fortnight to sit down with (RLPA boss) Ian Prendergast.
“Speaking with Ian over the last two weeks, there’s a CBA deal very close which for me is very pleasing to hear considering we’re in grand final week now.
“If there’s a deal done a few days after, what a great ending to the season for everyone.”