NRL fans were left fuming after Sunday night’s NRL grand final when Melbourne Storm champion Cameron Smith was booed after what is likely to be his final game.
Smith played a blinder as the Storm beat Penrith 26-20 to claim another premiership, before delivering a powerful post-game speech and dedicating the triumph to Victoria.
‘QUESTIONABLE’: Double Bunker drama rocks NRL grand final
However there were ugly scenes as Smith walked to the presentation dais to deliver his victory speech, with boos raining down from spectators at ANZ Stadium.
TV viewers were gobsmacked by the Sydney crowd’s treatment, flocking to social media to condemn the ‘disgusting’ behaviour.
The Ladies Who League Twitter account wrote: “Have people legit stayed behind to boo Cameron Smith? Grow up.”
Others described the booing as “embarrassing” and “disgraceful”.
Cameron Smith’s incredible victory speech
Despite the treatment, Smith showed his absolute class with a humble and gracious victory speech that had social media going wild.
With a large V emblazoned on their chest, the Storm’s home state was never far from their minds during their Sunshine Coast camp or on the field this year.
“Before I go, this big V on my jersey, on our jersey, this is who we’re playing for,” Smith said.
“Everyone back home in Victoria. This one’s for you, you beauty!”
The 37-year-old, who is widely tipped to hang up the boots in coming days, paid tribute to his vanquished opponents.
“Thank you, firstly, a really big thank you to Ivan and James and the rest of the Penrith squad for a fantastic game tonight, boys,” Smith said.
“We got out to a good lead there, but as all champion teams do, they hang in and fight back and you did that. I don’t know, I’m just glad that clock ran out in the end.
“You showed why, you know, you’ve been on top of the competition all season and 17 consecutive wins and this competition, the best rugby league competition in the world, it’s a fantastic effort.
“So thank you very much for the game tonight and all the very best next year. Hope you do well again.”
He also thanked the game’s administrators who kept the league running in the midst of a pandemic.
“Big thank you to Peter (V’Landys) and Andrew (Abdo) and your team back at head office for getting the competition going again,” he said.
“Everyone at the NRL and Telstra, both broadcasters for putting the faith in our administration and getting all the players back on the field and getting this competition going again. Really big thank you to all the fans.
“I know early on it didn’t look great. I’m not just talking about Melbourne Storm fans, talking about Melbourne Storm fans, talking about all the fans of every team in our competition to get back and stay strong and support your team throughout a very, very difficult season for everyone.”
Smith stays coy on future after grand final
Smith is now officially the NRL’s second-oldest premiership winner after Melbourne's 26-20 grand final win.
And based on his performance on Sunday night, there's no reason why 2020 has to be his last.
Smith was again one of the Storm’s best as they held out Penrith's last-ditch comeback, scoring his first grand final try and managing the clock to perfection late.
In turn, he becomes the second-oldest player behind George Brown at North Sydney in 1922 to lift the trophy.
He’d need to play another two years to overtake Brown. But at this point, is anything beyond him?
After dominating on it, Smith is staying mute about his future off the field.
When asked if he had any announcements to make after Sunday night's win, Smith was as defiant as he has been for the past six months.
“I got nothing,” Smith responded. “Get on the Storm in 2021!”
Click here to sign up to our newsletter for all the latest and breaking stories from Australia and around the world.