Broncos must offer Cam Smith ‘lifetime’ contract
Brisbane chairman Karl Morris should pick up the phone today, adopt the Titans' take-no-prisoners attitude and sign Cameron Smith to lead a cultural restoration of the Broncos.
They say in rugby league there is no such thing as a quick fix but the bumbling Broncos need answers quickly and there is only one man in the code who has the playing authority and off-field gravitas to bring swift solutions to the richest club in the NRL.
That man is Storm champion Smith.
Like many things in Brisbane's crumbling empire, so many failings remain unexplained, chiefly the inability of the club's army of development scouts to deliver arguably the greatest player we have ever seen into Broncos colours.
It has never made sense that a kid from Logan, who dreamt of playing for the Broncos, would become a champion at an NRL outpost in Melbourne some 1750km away in a city besotted with AFL.
Smith should never have made his way to the Storm, but with the damage done, only he can now repair a deeper damage at the Broncos.
Ironically, the Broncos can heed lessons from the very club that has helped plunge Brisbane into an unprecedented state of mediocrity.
Broncos superstar David Fifita accepted a $3.5 million deal to play at the Gold Coast from next season because the Titans simply kept persisting, refusing to take no for an answer.
Now the Broncos must employ the same tactic to poach Smith from the Storm.
There are currently 117 players off-contract at the end of this season.
Of that 117, only Smith, the most-capped player in NRL history with 422 games, has the playing experience, premiership-winning know-how, rugby league DNA and cultural understanding of sustained performance to reconstruct the Broncos.
For this columnist, the most alarming cultural sign for the Broncos came in the moments after full-time last week, when Smith produced another Storm masterclass to sink the Broncos 46-8 at Suncorp Stadium.
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For more than five minutes, Broncos halfback Brodie Croft and injured hooker Jake Turpin stood on field with Storm players, laughing, chatting and cuddling like they were at a Melbourne 20-year reunion.
It was embarrassing.
Who cares if Croft and Turpin once played at the Storm.
After a 38-point loss, with Brisbane in 15th place, Croft and Turpin should have been gutted, retreating to the Broncos sheds to lament the latest slice of humiliation they keep serving up to their fans and club legends who won six premierships.
Can you imagine Smith accepting such a pitiful performance? Can you imagine Smith shooting the breeze with any rival players if his side had been beaten by 38 points?
It simply wouldn't happen.
That is the type of leadership, statesmanship and ruthless pursuit of winning excellence that drives the Storm - and is missing at the Broncos.
Smith is currently 37 years and 41 days old. Granted, he is not the fastest, biggest, strongest or most explosive player, but the beauty of the former Maroons and Australian captain is a guile and footballing acumen that will never grow old.
There is a view among Broncos insiders that Smith would never come to Brisbane because he remains privately dirty on the club for failing to sign him in their backyard all those years ago.
But, as the Fifita affair showed, everyone has, if not a price, a driving purpose in life.
The departure of Fifita, the retiring Darius Boyd and the unwanted Jack Bird would give Brisbane more than $2 million to spend under the salary cap next season.
The Broncos board should offer Smith a 20-year employee 'lifetime' contract. It would entail a 12-month playing swansong next season, followed by a virtual lifetime of employment where Smith can preside over Brisbane's culture and have his fingerprints over every facet of their football operations.
People may scoff at 20 years but Craig Bellamy has served almost two decades at the Storm and Wayne Bennett did it at the Broncos.
Smith has an understanding of rugby league that will stand the test of time in any era.
The Broncos may have missed him for the past 20 years, but if Brisbane's board apply some strategy and left-field thinking, Smith can set up their next 20.
Originally published as Broncos must offer Cam Smith 'lifetime' contract