'They're fuming': NRL turns on Cameron Smith over 'irresponsible' comments

Sam Goodwin
Sports Editor

Cameron Smith has reportedly angered a number of NRL heavyweights with his call for the season to be suspended.

On Sunday the Melbourne Storm skipper called for the NRL to be suspended for a few weeks, claiming he and his teammates are concerned for their families' health.

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“This thing is bigger than rugby league,” Smith said.

"This affects more than just rugby league and rugby league players ... after finishing these matches on weekends, we go back to our families.

"There are several players in our squad who are going back to their families who have newborn babies.

"Craig (Bellamy) has an elderly mother. My parents are in their 60s. Craig is in his sixties. But listening to medical advice, he is in the risk bracket.”

Cameron Smith called on the NRL to suspend the season. Image: Fox Sports

Smith was largely praised for his stance, however he has reportedly angered his bosses at NRL headquarters.

Veteran league journo Danny Weidler told the Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday: “The comments made by Cameron Smith, I understand where he’s coming from. I’m one of the few people who can cut him any kind of slack.

“Those comments went down worse than a sniffle in an office at the NRL. They were fuming about it behind closed doors.

“In theory everybody is supposed to be on the same page about this in regards to this and Cameron was not on the same page and they [the NRL] are not happy with him.”

South Sydney boss Shane Richardson went a step further and publicly criticised Smith’s comments as ‘irresponsible’.

“I don’t know Cameron’s financial situation but we have players who need to pay their mortgage every single week and we have staff who need to do it too,” Richardson told the Daily Telegraph.

“I don’t know if he carries clout or not but I think it is irresponsible in a sense that it is not a decision that Cameron Smith makes or Shane Richardson makes.”

Shane Richardson speaks to the media in 2019. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Sam Burgess disagrees with Smith

Meanwhile, retired superstar Sam Burgess added his voice to the controversy on Monday night, saying he doesn’t agree with Smith.

“I tend to disagree with Cameron on this one,” Burgess told NRL 360.

“While we can, we keep playing. The players have all the protocol around them and the best information. The NRL’s main priority is the welfare and the health of the players and its fans and their families.

“While that’s the case, let’s keep playing. The players want to play. Give the fans who aren’t able to get out much or get to the game something to spectate.

“As a player, it’s your responsibility to stay as healthy as possible, make some different choices away from the game because essentially it’s the players who are going to get hurt in the long run because it’s going to cost the game.”

NRL to meet with medical chief

Meanwhile, the NRL will sit down with the nation's chief medical officer on Tuesday morning as the league ramps up its efforts to ward off the threat of the coronavirus.

The meeting with professor Brendan Murphy comes a day after ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys expressed confidence in the game's immediate future.

“We've got some biosecurity advice today (Monday) which has made me a little bit more confident moving forward,” V'landys said on NRL 360.

“We're meeting with the chief medical officer (Tuesday) morning to get further advice. We want to make these decisions with the best available information.”

NRL officials will also discuss preventative measures with health minister Greg Hunt, who has previously predicted the virus outbreak to last six months.

But, as it stands, the league remains determined to push ahead with their season despite a number of sporting codes suspending their competitions.

V'landys insisted the governing body would not be rushed into making the same call, which would have a disastrous financial implications.

"We want to have that lever in our armoury to suspend the season when we have to. It's a bit premature to do it on the available advice that we have now," he said.

In a sign of its attempt to keep their players healthy, the league has organised chartered flights for teams travelling interstate for their games this weekend.

V'landys also said players needed to reduce their social activity.

"We'll minimise the risk as much as possible," he said.

"But at the end of it, it'll be the player. As long as the player is educated and reduces the social activity... they're not going to the pub, not going to a restaurant, staying at home, etc., we'll be in a good position."

with AAP