Wayne Bennett's staggering accusation after Cameron Smith retirement

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Wayne Bennett and Cameron Smith, pictured here in the NRL.
Wayne Bennett claims Cameron Smith snubbed the Broncos, not the other way around. Image: Getty

Wayne Bennett claims Cameron Smith was the one to snub the Broncos at the start of his NRL career, not the other way around.

Smith has long maintained the Broncos overlooked him as a junior, driving him into Melbourne's arms as a scorned teenager.

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It's a point contested by Bennett that the Broncos' inability to sign Smith was a huge mistake, but the South Sydney coach maintains the club tried - the player just wasn't interested.

Speaking after Smith finally announced his retirement on Wednesday, Bennett claims the Broncos did want Smith but were shunted for the Storm.

Long before Smith would go on to become the record-breaking NRL legend at Melbourne, the unassuming teenager sat down in a Brisbane office with Bennett, where the champion coach tried to recruit him to the Broncos.

“(Former Broncos recruitment manager) Cyril Connell saw him play first, I saw him play and under 17s game and he wasn’t playing hooker at the time,” Bennett said.

“He came to the Broncos, his father came, his manager came and it was myself and Cyril in the room.

“We made him an offer but I just felt he didn’t want to play at the Broncos. It was a good offer but the bottom line was he made a choice to go to Melbourne.

“It was his choice, as I said we wanted him there but he didn’t think it suited him for whatever reason and that’s fine.

“It wasn’t a poor decision by us, he just didn’t want to play there for whatever reason. That’s just the way it works.”

Smith's decision to join Melbourne instead was a sliding doors moment for both player and coach, who would go on to create unbeatable records on their own but combine powers only five times in almost 20 years.

Cameron Smith and Billy Slater, pictured here posing for a photo with their statues outside AAMI Park.
Cameron Smith and Billy Slater pose for a photo with their statues outside AAMI Park. (Photo by Darrian Traynor/Getty Images)

Wayne Bennett pays tribute to Cameron Smith

Bennett is the longest-serving coach in the NRL but has only had the luxury of having Smith on his side five times in almost 1000 games.

Four of those games were NRL All Stars matches, while Bennett also handed 20-year-old Smith his Queensland debut in 2003 - the first of an incredible 42 Origin matches.

And while Bennett is typically frugal in excitement and sparing with his praise, he marked Smith's retirement on Wednesday after 430 NRL games as an incredible achievement that defies logic.

Remarkably, Smith missed just 15 games through injury or suspension across his entire career.

"I was never more relaxed in the coach's box than when he was playing for me," Bennett said.

"And I mean that, he was wonderful.

"I had him in a couple of All Stars games and he just made it so much easier.

"He had a great career and whether he's the greatest player of all time, who knows, but he's certainly got a record there that will take some beating.

"His durability, it was incredible.

"For the position that he played, the number of games that he didn't play was very few.

"He just had a great ability to position his body in places where he never got himself into a risk of injury.

"He did it year after year and kept defying all the logic that goes with the position that he plays."

with AAP

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