Smith: ‘I almost quit NRL over ring scandal’
RUGBY league great Cameron Smith has revealed how his family was shattered by vicious social media rumours that he was having an affair.
Smith's autobiography, The Storm Within (Allen and Unwin), addresses the distress caused by baseless, widely circulated rumours he was having an affair with respected Fox League presenter Yvonne Sampson.
When Smith was informed by his manager Isaac Moses rumours were circling on social media he was having an affair with Sampson he was so taken aback he started laughing.
But the smile soon vanished as his thoughts to two people who was more wounded than he was - Sampson and his wife Barb.
"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?'' Smith said.
"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 and Barb Smith had a text exchange to in which they offered reassurance and support to each other and Sampson floated the possibility of publicly crushing the rumours when Smith appeared on Fox Sport's League Life in 2018 but Smith decided to let the issue pass.
Sampson last night told News Corp: "My husband and I were made aware of these absurd and baseless rumours when they surfaced three years ago. They are utterly false. This malicious gossip has no bearing on my life, career as a journalist or love of rugby league.''
The book will be released on Monday and there has been a late twist in the tale.
Smith, 37, has been widely tipped to retire and it was expected the final chapter in the book would be his career sign-off.
But, in the immediate aftermath of the Melbourne Storm's grand final win, he was still agonising over his decision so publishers Allen and Unwin agreed not to wait for the final call and sent the book to the presses.
"It was actually a bit of a challenge actually and the publishers were very good,'' Smith said.
"But we just decided to go with it rather than wait for the decision because we felt we had a great book already as it was and a story worth telling.''
The book lifts the lid on the inside story behind the pain and frustration of the 2010 Storm salary cap scandal which cost the side two premierships and Smith also reveals how the fallout over the diamond ring gifted to his wife from the NRL almost prompted him to quit the game.
Smith initially thought the ring, which was to commemorate his 400th NRL match, was a great idea but his feelings changes when it ignited a media storm.
"It was claimed the money could have been better spent on grassroots football,'' Smith said.
"I could not believe what our game had become. This had overstepped the mark. And Barb was devastated.
"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.''
Smith gives his side of the story of the most controversial incident of his career - the questioning of referee Gerard Sutton over a penalty against the Storm after Newcastle forward sustained a serious spinal injury that left him wheelchair bound.
Smith does not apologise for his actions ("I did what any other captain would do'') but does explain them, maintaining he initially did not know how serious the injury was and sensed the concern "was probably precautionary … that is what happened 9.9 times out of 10 when a player is injured like that.
He also unmasks his deep resentment against Channel Nine's 60 Minutes for their coverage of the incident in an interview with McKinnon which cast Smith as a heartless villain.
He admitted to being surprised when former teammate Cooper Cronk brushed his offer of a hug for a quick handshake after they met as on-field rivals but denies they have ever had a bust-up as has been widely reported.
The Brisbane Broncos have long fantasised about bringing Smith back to Brisbane and he concedes for the first time it almost happened.
Towards the end of the 2014 season he told coach Craig Bellamy it was his intention to move back to Brisbane to make it easier on his wife Barb to manage three young children. Barb later convinced him to stay in Melbourne.
Smith claims in the book his reputation as the "referee whisper'' counted against by the end of his career when referees - "all of them'' - suddenly became "dismissive'' of him.
Smith declares himself to be shamelessly old fashioned when it comes to celebrations and would happily forgo an ice bath for an ice cold beer.
But Smith saw a vivid line between being boisterous and a bad egg and the taboo force which turned one into the other was drugs.
The morning after playing his 50th Test in Canberra against New Zealand, Smith learnt his Kiwi rival and Storm teammate Jesse Bromwich had been caught with former Storm player Kevin Proctor using illicit drugs after being offered them by a person they had met the night before.
Smith reveals he was so livid he had no intention of looking Bromwich in the eye when they got on the plane out of Canberra and was too angry to talk to him.
When they did finally talk - at Bromwich's urging as they left Melbourne airport - Smith said "mate, why would you do that? Why would you put yourself in jeopardy.''
The Storm Within by Cameron Smith with Andrew Webster, Allen & Unwin, RRP $49.99. Available in all good bookstores from tomorrow. Cameron Smith will be signing copies of his book at Queen Street Mall next Friday 20th November at 12pm. Visit www.dymocks.com.au/stores/qld/dymocks-brisbane for more details.
Originally published as Smith: 'I almost quit NRL over ring scandal'