Forget the NRL’s war chest.
The Australian captaincy may loom as the biggest carrot to keep Greg Inglis in the NRL after Test skipper Cameron Smith’s glowing endorsement.
Smith admits he is not contemplating representative retirement as he prepares to enter an elite group in Friday night’s trans-Tasman Test in Brisbane.
Smith – 32 in June – will become just the fifth player to lead Australia for 20 or more Tests, joining Darren Lockyer (38), Clive Churchill (27), Brad Fittler (25), Mal Meninga (24) and Wally Lewis (24).
But Smith knows he is closer to the end than the start of his Test career, and endorsed Inglis as a potential replacement.
“I think Greg is capable of anything that he puts his mind to,” he said.
“We are lucky there are plenty to choose from.
“But if he put his hand up, I am sure he is more than capable of doing it.”
Smith said he had noticed Inglis had grown since taking over the South Sydney captaincy.
“He is doing a good job at Souths,” he said.
“The last couple of years he has matured a lot as a footballer and as a person.
“And he still has a lot of years ahead of him.”
In a nod towards the well documented interest from European rugby and league teams in Inglis, Smith added: “Hopefully he sticks around and plays a lot more Test matches”.
Inglis, 28, has been inundated by offers from clubs in France and the UK, fuelling speculation he will walk away when his contract expires at the end of 2016.
It has prompted NRL boss Dave Smith to contemplate digging into his player retention fund to keep him in the game after the loss of Israel Folau, Sonny Bill Williams and Sam Burgess to rugby.
Cameron Smith’s rap may help Inglis re-think a code switch.
Not that Smith wants to relinquish the reins – especially with a milestone looming.
“Twenty Tests as captain – it’s a huge honour, no doubt,” he said.
“To be in a group with those names, it’s fairly humbling.
“While still playing it is part of the job but afterwards…and sitting back one day…it will be a very special thing.
“I am just grateful I get to lead a quality side, in some big matches, in front of great crowds and in some wonderful arenas.”