Cameron Smith says his initial reaction to rumours he was having an affair with Fox Sports presenter Yvonne Sampson was to start laughing, but he admits they left his wife, Barb, shattered.
The NRL legend has just released his autobiography, writing about some of the biggest moments and controversies of his career.
From Alex McKinnon’s spinal injury and the fallout after, to his relationship with coach Craig Bellamy, to the diamond ring drama in his 400th game and his bizarre feud with Cooper Cronk, Smith’s story has been spotted with headline-grabbing moments.
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The book even touches on the reason he has struggled for so much of the season with a retirement decision.
“The thing that gets me is that Billy (Slater), Gal and JT all said they knew the exact moment when they could not do it any more and enough was enough. I have not woken up and thought, “Nup, I just can’t do it,” he wrote.
But he couldn’t be clearer on the social media rumours that rocked his family in a series of excerpts published by The Courier Mail on Friday night.
Before the 2018 season, Smith was told about rumours he was having an affair with Sampson, an allegation all parties have denied.
Cameron Smith and his wife Barb; Yvonne Sampson.Source:Getty Images
After being told of the harmful gossip by his manager Isaac Moses, Smith “was so taken aback he started laughing” before his attention turned to the welfare of his wife Barb and Sampson.
“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?” the excerpt reads.
“It was just cruel … rumours that were completely untrue. When I told Barb she was shattered. It floored her.
“I could handle it but I was concerned for her and Yvonne, who had been around our game for a long time and we all know how well-respected she is.
“She was just about to get married and it was just so sad. The first time I did an interview with her after it I felt for her.”
Sampson married Channel 9 reporter Chris O’Keefe in October 2018.
Sampson and Barb Smith even reportedly traded text messages to check on each other’s welfare and Sampson even floated the possibility of slamming the rumours on an episode of Fox Sports’ League Life in 2018 but Smith chose to let it pass.
Alex McKinnon lays on the ground after being tackled as Cameron Smith looks on (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)Source:Getty
Smith unwittingly played an unfortunate role in one of the more horrific moments seen on an NRL field.
On Monday, March 24, 2014, Knights forward Alex McKinnon suffered a career-ending and life-altering spinal injury that has left him wheelchair-bound.
While McKinnon lay on the turf, Smith argued with the referee over his team being penalised for lifting McKinnon in the tackle.
He still does not apologise for his actions but maintains he didn’t realise how serious the injury was.
The Storm players wanted to visit McKinnon in hospital but were told he couldn’t have visitors and that they would not be welcome.
“The truth is what happened to Alex rocked all of us and it didn’t take long for the barbs to come out for the Melbourne Storm,” he wrote.
“The accusation was our defensive system was dangerous and on this occasion the consequences were devastating.”
It led to a 60 Minutes episode where McKinnon spoke about the incident and left Smith feeling like he was portrayed as a heartless villain.
Smith was in Origin camp when the episode aired and was reportedly furious and refused to interview with Channel 9 after Origin.
Smith and McKinnon later met, with McKinnon apologising for his statements, while Smith told the former Knight his apology was unnecessary.
Smith was still furious with Channel 9 however and after meeting with Nine boss Hugh Marks and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg to ask why he wasn’t asked for comment, Smith was told “they didn’t feel like I needed to be in it”.
He was later given an apology on The Footy Show but was furious after it was given by Paul Vautin rather than a Nine executive.
“I walked away that night pissed off … after everything that happened they could not even get the apology right,” he wrote.
THE INFAMOUS RING
Barb, Cam and Todd Greenberg.Source:Getty Images
Smith admits that the drama that followed Todd Greenberg’s gesture of giving a diamond ring to Barb almost saw the legend retire.
It was his 400th game — making him the first player to reach the milestone — when then NRL CEO Greenberg wanted to honour his record and present the Smiths with tokens of affection.
Smith received a Waterford crystal football, while Barb was given a ring.
“It was claimed the money could have been better spent on grassroots football. I could not believe what our game had become. This had overstepped the mark. And Barb was devastated,” Smith writes.
“What was worse we were blamed for taking money away from where it should be spent – as if we were stealing money from junior clubs.
“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.”
Barb offered to return the ring but Smith said she still has it.
The Storm Within by Cameron Smith with Andrew Webster, Allen & Unwin, RRP $49.99. Available from November 16.
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