CAMERON Smith is the greatest rugby league player of all time - change my mind. Actually, don't bother; you won't. While you're at it, spare me the "why do we have to compare players" garbage. We always have and we always will.
Any player thrown into the GOAT argument is elevated not diminished. When it comes to Smith, though, he's fast taking the argument out of our hands.
How we should measure greatness is an argument all on its own. There's no one criteria. Personal opinions are founded largely on the intangibles - it's human nature.
When measuring overall greatness it really boils down to is weighing the tangibles against the intangibles. It's rare that a player makes an irrefutable case in both columns.
At the time of his retirement, Kickoff felt Jonathan Thurston was the best of all time. It was a belief founded on both tangibles and intangibles.
He had four Dally M Medals, 323 NRL games, 38 Tests for the most points ever, 37 Origins for 10 series wins and the most points ever, three Golden Boots, two premierships.
Empirical data aside, he was a pure joy to watch and easy personality to love off the field. He's an Immortal in waiting. It didn't seem then like any of his contemporaries would match or go past him.
Yet that's what Smith has done. This weekend he'll become the first player to play 400 NRL games. Throw in 56 Tests and 42 Origins and he's just shy of 500 games of truly elite rugby league.
On numbers alone his case as the greatest of all time is truly compelling, but it's not just longevity that makes him great, it's his ability to influence the outcome of games.
He's demonstrably the best winner of all time. It's universally acknowledged that playing 300 games is a monumental achievement in our game. Barring injury, Smith will notch 300 wins early next season.
He's made 36 finals appearances - most ever - for 24 wins. He' the game's all-time leading point-scorer - as a hooker. He boasts a host of other individual honours, two Dally M Medals, a Golden Boot. In a decade of Origin series wins, he was Man of the Series four times.
The numbers aren't hard to fathom. What is baffling is the hate. Why all the hate?
He doesn't win fan polls when the questions about the GOAT are asked, doesn't come close. The comments on them are all the same he's "the biggest grub of all time", "best referee of all time" "biggest cheat of all time."
The truth is his case as the best ever is so irrefutable by tangible means that all his detractors - and there are many - can do is resort to ad hominem attacks. The Storm's salary cap rorting is top of the list and there's has no doubt put an asterisk next to the club's success.
The fact it has no bearing on his Origin and Test success aside, why does that dark chapter rest heavier on Smith's shoulders than, say, Cooper Cronk? They were both part of the same system.
It's an interesting study in fan psychology. South of the border, Andrew Johns is King. Fans have no problem lauding Cronk's achievements because, as good as he is, he's no threat to their King's legacy.
It's the same reason fans of Michael Jordan have no problem gushing over Kobe Bryant, but feel the need to diminish LeBron James. Bryant could never be Michael, LeBron might be better.
It explains a lot of the vitriol directed Smith's way when the argument comes up. It doesn't seem to bother Smith all that much but it's a shame.
One of the great tragedies of this sporting life is our inability to appreciate and "experience" greatness when it's right in front of us.
In April fans flocked to Randwick to watch Winx in her final race, to experience greatness in the flesh. Right now rugby league's own Winx is racing right before our eyes.
It's a shame most people won't notice until he's long past the finish post.