'Menace' A Phantom Issue For Smith
It was the moment former NSW Blues playmaker Brett Finch criticised then Bulldogs No.9 Michael Ennis for not showing Kangaroos captain Cameron Smith respect, but according to the Storm skipper, it's now "water under the bridge".
Ennis has earned the reputation as being one of the game's finest nigglers, but some people thought he crossed the line when he patted Smith's head in week one of the 2014 finals when the champion hooker came up with an uncharacteristic error.
The two will square off for the first time in the post-season since that incident on Sunday night in the NRL Telstra Premiership Grand Final, and Smith said he had no issues with the way his rival played the game.
"That's just 'Mickey'. I actually get on with him quite well off the footy field," Smith said.
"That's part of the role that he plays in the teams that he plays for. I've played many games against Mick and he's a competitor, and he's out there to try to do the best for his team, and that's to win. We're all the same; we want to go out and do the very best for our team.
"That [the head tapping incident] was a long time ago, so that's all water under the bridge.
"I try to keep my calm. He might try to do it again on Sunday, I'm not sure.
"My focus is about my team and my teammates, my role in the side and doing the best for our team. I'm sure Mick's the same.
"I'm sure we're going to cross paths at some time in the match. We play in the same position, we handle the ball fairly regularly and we're involved in a lot of tackles on the field, so we'll cross paths for sure."
Sunday's match will be the 21st and final time the duelling number nines go toe-to-toe on the football field, and Smith was full of nothing but praise for the man he sparred with for the past 12 years at both club and state level.
"For a guy to be around as long as he has – he's represented NSW – he's a quality player. He's one of the best dummy-halves that we've seen in the modern game," Smith said.
"The biggest strength of Michael is his competitiveness. He's a tough little bugger. Big blokes run at him and he just gets up.
"A huge reason of why the Cronulla Sharks are in the grand final is because of what Mick's done on the field and his performances."
While Ennis's career will come to an end on Sunday night, Smith's is showing no signs of slowing down.
The 33-year-old was crowned Dally M Hooker of the Year for a record sixth time on Wednesday night and is playing as well as he ever has 334 games into his distinguished career.
Smith, who is contracted until the end of 2018, looks set to surpass former Bronco Darren Lockyer's record of 355 NRL games next season, and has refused to rule out playing on beyond that.
An unprecedented 18th season in first grade would see him become the first player in history to notch 400 games at NRL level, but Smith said he wasn't looking that far ahead.
"To get there you'd have to play on for quite a time longer than this," he said.
"You speak to the older guys in the game and it's a number. It sort of creeps up quite quickly, it's not like you sit down every year and tick them off as they go.
"It only felt like yesterday that I was pulling on the purple jersey for the first time back in 2002, which is quite a long time ago now. As long as I'm still enjoying it and contributing to the team, I'll try to play on as long as I can."