Cameron Smith has backed out of a chance to respond to the Alex McKinnon interview on the Nine Network.
The Melbourne and Queensland captain has pulled out of a scheduled interview with Fox Sports which would have provided him an opportunity to respond to the McKinnon controversy.
He was due to film the interview with Parramatta legend Peter Sterling on Friday, but has instead flown to Auckland with his Storm teammates as they prepare to take on the Warriors on Sunday.
Smith came in for some heavy criticism on the 60 Minutes program dedicated to the ex-Newcastle forward last Sunday
An angry Smith turned down an offer by Nine this week to respond to McKinnon’s controversial remarks and maintained his vow not to speak to the network during Wednesday night’s State of Origin series decider.
It came as Wayne Bennett washed his hands of the intensifying storm over McKinnon’s scathing public criticism of Smith.
Bennett made it clear on Friday he had nothing more to add to his comments.
In the hour-long show, McKinnon voiced his anger over on-field comments Smith made following the tackle that left him a quadriplegic in March last year.
Seven-times premiership-winning coach Bennett, who was in charge of the Knights at the time and has coached Smith at representative level, said it wasn’t a true reflection of the Kangaroos skipper’s character.
“He is a good person, he is a decent person, so I have to assume that on the night he just got it wrong,” he said.
But when media attempted to question Bennett over the drama that has unfolded since, the Brisbane coach was having none of it.
“It’s on record what I said, that’s where I’m staying, I’m not making anymore (comments),” he said before eventually snapping at journalists.
“That’s it, it’s over for me.”
Bennett would not be drawn on whether he felt for Smith, who wasn’t granted a right of reply on the program, nor if he thought the relationship between him and McKinnon can be repaired.
It comes as Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant added fuel to the fire late on Thursday, suggesting McKinnon’s heated remarks have caused him to lose some support within the rugby league community.
“If Alex is happy with where he is, we don’t do anything either,” Grant told Fairfax Media.
“It’s hard to imagine Alex – and be very careful in how you interpret this – Alex has the sympathy and empathy of 100 per cent of the rugby league community.
“It’s been shown in every way possible during unbelievably tragic circumstances.
“But where he is at at the moment, he has lost some of that support.
“I don’t think that’s what he would have wanted.”
NRL chief executive Dave Smith and head of football Todd Greenberg have also publicly backed the Storm captain.