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    Cameron Smith refused to address rumours of affair with TV star Yvonne Sampson

    As damaging rumours ran wild that she had an affair with Cameron Smith, TV star Yvonne Sampson asked him to publicly shoot them down with her. He refused. This is why he’s the footy legend Aussies love to hate, writes MIKE COLMAN

    • Cameron Smith has addressed raft of rumours in new book ‘The Storm Within’
    • Smith refused to publicly deny rumours of affair with TV host Yvonne Sampson
    • The NRL star’s friendship breakdown with Cooper Cronk is also in limelight

    If Cameron Smith’s new book ‘The Storm Within’ teaches us just one thing, it is this: being great does not make you popular.

    I’ve only ever had one conversation with Cameron Smith in my life and I found him to be a very pleasant fellow with a down-to-earth manner and an engaging smile. He struck me as someone who likes to keep his cards close to his chest, but that’s no crime.

    So why does the most successful rugby league player of his generation – some would say the most successful of all time – manage to rub so many people up the wrong way?

    Is it because he is so good?

    Melbourne Storm Captain Cameron Smith is kissed by his wife Barbara Smith as he leaves the field after becoming the first player to reach 400 matches in July 2019

    Smith's friendship with Cooper Cronk (right) came to an end when he moved to Sydney to marry TV presenter Tara Rushton (left) and signed with the Roosters for the 2018 season

    Smith’s friendship with Cooper Cronk (right) came to an end when he moved to Sydney to marry TV presenter Tara Rushton (left) and signed with the Roosters for the 2018 season

    Hardly. If that were the case, his long-time team-mates Johnathan Thurston and Billy Slater wouldn’t be as overwhelmingly liked as they are.

    Is it because he plays for the Melbourne Storm, a team that has made winning an art form?

    See above, under Billy Slater.

    Is it because he led Queensland through the Maroon’s most successful period of Origin dominance over the Blues thus alienating the entire state of NSW?

    Well, surely that would at least make him a folk-hero in Queensland, which he’s not.

    Then what?

    Read the book. Or, if you can’t bring yourself to put any of your hard-earned into his wallet, then at least read the excerpts that have been filling papers and online news sites to the point of saturation over the past few days.

    It’s all there in black and white.

    As he is on the field, laying down the law to referees and opposition players alike, Smith cannot be wrong. Like his passing and kicking, he’s perfect. In anecdote after anecdote, reflection after reflection, the World According to Cameron is very much coloured purple and gold – just like his Storm jersey.

    Now you’ve got to give Smith and his co-author, journalist Andrew Webster, credit for not trying to win any new friends by making him appear a sympathetic character.

    In his book, Smith addressed 'completely untrue' rumours he was having an affair with Fox TV host Yvonne Sampson (left)

    In his book, Smith addressed ‘completely untrue’ rumours he was having an affair with Fox TV host Yvonne Sampson (left)

    Smith is chaired off the field following a win in the first NRL preliminary final between Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders at Suncorp Stadium on October 16

    Smith is chaired off the field following a win in the first NRL preliminary final between Melbourne Storm and the Canberra Raiders at Suncorp Stadium on October 16

    Smith tells it just like he sees it. Which is at times so self-serving as to be almost laughable.

    In the prologue he says, ‘This is my chance to set the record straight’. Some might say not so much straight as slanted very much to Smith’s side of the story.

    Pictured: Cameron Smith's new book 'The Storm Within'

    Pictured: Cameron Smith’s new book ‘The Storm Within’

    He also tells us he was never the fastest or strongest of players. Maybe not, but if this book is anything to go by, he has a world class sidestep and dummy.

    Reading through the 373 pages there were many times when my mouth dropped open and I couldn’t help but shake my head in amazement at his take on history.

    The best example was when he was describing his bitterness after the Storm was stripped of two premierships and forced to play the 2010 season for no points as punishment for the club’s systemic cheating of the NRL’s salary cap to the tune of millions of dollars.

    And who did Smith hold responsible for his anger? Brian Waldron the Storm CEO who orchestrated the rort?

    What about Matt Hanson, the Storm’s former financial officer at whose home a secret dossier containing incriminating evidence of secret payments to players was found?

    No, neither of them. It was the NRL CEO David Gallop who according to Smith, should have waited until the league finished its investigation before announcing its sanctions.

    Forget the fact that the investigation proved conclusively that the Storm did in fact keep two sets of books and that the amount of the deception was actually $3.78 million – more than double the initial estimate – and that 13 players, including Smith, received illegal payments.

    While there was never any evidence that the players knew they were being paid ‘under the table’, in Smith’s view someone from outside the hallowed corridors of Storm HQ had to be the villain, and Gallop was the most convenient scapegoat.

    Todd Greenberg gifted Smith's wife (left) with a $10,000 diamond ring after the Storm captain became the first player to pass the 400-game milestone

    Todd Greenberg gifted Smith’s wife (left) with a $10,000 diamond ring after the Storm captain became the first player to pass the 400-game milestone

    Smith said that when Greenberg (pictured) offered the ring, he told him that it was a 'great idea'

    Smith said that when Greenberg (pictured) offered the ring, he told him that it was a ‘great idea’

    As an interesting sidebar, Smith says that in contrast to the way Gallop handled the Storm’s blatant rorting, he was so impressed with the softer approach the then-NRL CEO Todd Greenberg took when Parramatta was found guilty of a much smaller $570,000 breach six years later that he called him to offer his congratulations.

    Greenberg, of course, features heavily in another controversial chapter in Smith’s life story, when he orchestrated the gift of a $10,000 diamond ring to Smith’s wife Barb after the Storm captain became the first player to pass the 400-game milestone.

    Smith says that when Greenberg offered the ring, he told him – rather naively it would seem – that it was a ‘great idea’.

    Maybe not so much. Apparently Smith was totally unprepared for the reaction from the haters. It never dawned on him to suggest that a nice bunch of flowers would be a safer alternative. That as one of the highest paid players in the game, if he wanted his wife to have a diamond ring to thank her for all her support over the years, he’d buy it himself.

    The inevitable eruption was swift and large. Greenberg was accused of wasting money that could have been spent on junior development. The Smiths were portrayed as greedy.

    Barb said she’d give the ring back. Smith contemplated quitting the game. In the end they did neither, although Todd Greenberg’s papers were stamped. He was out the door less than six months later.

    Fox TV host Yvonne Sampson (left) is pictured with her husband Chris O'Keefe (right)

    Fox TV host Yvonne Sampson (left) is pictured with her husband Chris O’Keefe (right)

    Smith and wife Barbara arrive at the Dally M Awards at The Star in Sydney in September 2017

    Smith and wife Barbara arrive at the Dally M Awards at The Star in Sydney in September 2017

    Then there is his take on unfounded rumours on social media that he was having an affair with Fox TV host Yvonne Sampson.

    Again he understandably takes the opportunity to give his side of the story, but also reveals that Sampson asked him to deny the rumours alongside her on air when he appeared on a program she hosted. He refused.

    ‘I wasn’t comfortable doing that,’ he says, leaving her to face the innuendo alone.

    As for claims in the book that he remains in the dark over the reasons behind a bitter fallout between him and former team-mate Cooper Cronk, I guess we’ll have to wait for Cronk’s book to get the other side of that story – but in the meantime you can take it as read that the instigator was Smith.

    Once the closest of mates, their relationship ended when Cronk moved to Sydney to marry TV presenter Tara Rushton and signed with the Roosters for the 2018 season.

    According to reliable inside reports, Smith cut Cronk dead from the moment it was announced he would be joining the Storm’s arch-rivals. He even refused to pass him the ball when they were playing together for Australia a few months later.

    The final insult came when, after receiving no reply to his wedding invitation, Cronk texted Smith to ask whether he would be attending.

    ‘No’, came the curt reply.

    Smith poses with his book at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on November 16

    Smith poses with his book at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on November 16

    The public first became aware of the animosity between the two when Cronk avoided a post-match hug from Smith after the first Storm-Roosters game in which they opposed each other.

    Later that season they met in the grand final and the vision of Cronk kneeling over Smith with his hands around his throat went viral.

    Smith’s version of it all?

    ‘People started asking me what was going on between me and Cooper’, he says in the book.

    ‘I wish I could’ve given them the answer. I had no idea.’

    Oh please.

    There is one major talking point in Smith’s life story where I am totally on his side, and that is the aftermath of the horrific incident involving Newcastle Knights player Alex McKinnon in 2014.

    McKinnon, who became a paraplegic after being hit in a tackle by three Storm players, was featured on 60 Minutes just over a year later. For the first time he was shown footage which purported to show Smith arguing with referee Gerard Sutton over a penalty as McKinnon lay injured nearby.

    Smith is seen during the 2010 season. Melbourne Storm completed the season without points after salary cap breaches were revealed

    Smith is seen during the 2010 season. Melbourne Storm completed the season without points after salary cap breaches were revealed

    ‘Is he still debating?’ a shocked McKinnon asked reporter Liz Hayes. ‘Is he [email protected]#%ing serious?’

    Smith – who wasn’t invited to appear on the program – says the footage was edited to make it look like the discussion with Sutton occurred as McKinnon was still being treated on the field, when in fact it happened after he had been stretchered off.

    Regardless, surely it is logical and fair to accept that Smith could not possibly have known the seriousness of McKinnon’s injury at the time, and as Storm captain he had every right to question the referee about the penalty.

    But whether those many Smith haters out there will look at anything logically or fairly in this book is the $10,000 diamond ring question.

    He might have taken his ‘chance to set the record straight’ but I have my doubts it will make anyone change their opinion about him.

    Sometimes that’s the price of greatness.

    THE WORLD ACCORDING TO CAM 

    2010 MELBOURNE STORM SEASON AND SALARY CAP DRAMA

    The club was penalised for salary cap breaches after it was revealed they kept two sets of books: one complying with the NRL salary cap and another disclosing the real payments. Melbourne were stripped of their titles of 2007 and 2009 premierships and did not receive points during the 2010 season. 

    Smith did not blame those accountable for the rort but claims the NRL CEO at the time, David Gallop, should have waited until the league finished its investigation before announcing its sanctions.

    TODD GREENBERG GIFTS SMITH’S WIFE WITH A $10,000 DIAMOND RING  

    Smith’s wife Barb was given the ring after the Storm captain became the first player to pass the 400-game milestone.

    Smith said that when Greenberg offered the ring, he told him that it was a ‘great idea’. 

    But the present was widely criticised and Smith contemplated walking away from the league amid the backlash.  

    ‘Things were getting out of control and it forced me, at the end of the 2019 season, to ask myself some serious questions. Should I walk away from the game? Or keep playing and put my family through this unwanted scrutiny,’ he wrote. 

    RUMOURS OF AN AFFAIR WITH TV HOST

    Rumours of an affair with Fox TV host Yvonne Sampson began to circulate on social media ahead of the 2018 Grand Final.

    In his book, Smith said the rumours were ‘cruel’ and ‘completely untrue’.

    ‘Honestly, if I was going to have an affair – which I never would – why would I do it with someone with a profile as big as hers? And in my own sport?’ he wrote.

    Smith also revealed Sampson asked him to deny the rumours alongside her on air when he appeared on a program she hosted. He refused as he did not feel ‘comfortable’.  

    FRIENDSHIP WITH FORMER TEAMMATE COOPER CRONK 

    Once the closest of mates, their relationship ended when Cronk moved to Sydney to marry TV presenter Tara Rushton and signed with the Roosters for the 2018 season.

    According to reliable inside reports, Smith cut Cronk dead from the moment it was announced he would be joining the Storm’s arch-rivals.

    Cronk invited Smith to his wedding and after receiving no reply to his wedding invitation, he sent a text to ask whether his former teammate would be in attendance.

    ‘No’, Smith reportedly replied.

    Smith claims he has no clue why he and Cronk are no longer good friends.  

     

     

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