One of the most challenging weeks of Cameron Smith’s career has led Queensland to rally around their captain just days ahead of Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider in Brisbane.
Reeling from Alex McKinnon’s scathing criticism in the Nine Network’s 60 Minutes program, Smith is also believed to be frustrated he had not been given a right of reply.
Ex-Newcastle forward McKinnon was upset over on-field comments Melbourne’s Smith made following the tackle that left him paralysed in March last year.
McKinnon told the program he believed Smith had implied that the Knights forward had been somewhat to blame for the spinal injury he suffered in a three-man tackle.
Smith’s management confirmed on Monday that neither the skipper nor his NRL club Melbourne were asked to appear on the hour-long 60 Minutes feature.
McKinnon’s claims capped an emotional week for Smith.
He had paid his respects at Queensland Cup player James Ackerman’s funeral on the Sunshine Coast last Wednesday.
Two days later he joined the tributes for late Adelaide Crows coach Phil Walsh, an old friend of Smith’s NRL club Melbourne.
Now it is Smith looking for support days ahead of an Origin decider.
Maroons backrower Corey Parker admitted his skipper had been hit hard by McKinnon’s allegations.
“When you are part of a team there comes a time when you lean on each other – this is one of those times,” Parker said.
“It’s affected him to some degree. When your integrity gets questioned…it is never good.”
Asked if Smith should apologise or `clear the air’, Parker said: “I feel in due course Cameron will talk.
“(However) I know there have been attempts by Melbourne to get into contact (with McKinnon) but it was to no avail.
“But there are no winners in this situation. It is just a terrible, terrible accident.”
Showed a replay of the fateful tackle on the program, McKinnon said it was “f***ing ridiculous” that Smith was arguing with the referee about being penalised as the injured player was being treated and then carried off the field.
But Parker said on Monday: “I have known Cameron since he was a young boy.
“The person I know is a humble, good human.
“At no stage when those comments were made would he have known of the severity of the tackle.”
Parker felt for Smith who as Australian captain had been the face of rugby league’s reaction to two still raw tragedies.
Smith attended last week’s funeral of ex-Bronco and father of two Ackerman who tragically died after a tackle in a Queensland Cup match.
“I’ve got three young children of my own … so I couldn’t even imagine what the family’s going through at the moment,” Smith said on Friday.
Smith’s head was also spinning after the loss of Walsh who had endeared himself with Melbourne during several fact-finding missions to the NRL club.