NRL great 'was wrong' about 'undeniable' Cam Smith claim

Cameron Smith has responded to concerns around his influence in style. Pic: Getty

Peter Sterling is big enough to admit when he's wrong and the legendary commentator and former player says he got it very wrong when it comes to Cameron Smith.

Debate has been fierce around the Melbourne Storm skipper this season, with some critics questioning whether the new 'six-again' rule will affect the veteran hooker's influence on games.

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Canberra's round three victory over the Storm in Melbourne led to many calls that the new-look game played into the hands of the younger, faster rucks like Raiders star Josh Hodgson.

The English hooker continued his meteoric rise in the NRL, combining superbly with countryman George Williams in the 22-6 victory.

It prompted Sterling to declare that Hodgson had overtaken the reigning Dally M Hooker of the Year as the game's premier No.9.

“I don’t think there is a better No. 9 in the game than Josh Hodgson,” Sterling told Wide World of Sports.

Peter Sterling admits he was premature in dismissing Cam Smith as the game's best hooker. Pic: Getty

“I think he’s just about eclipsed Cameron Smith as the best No. 9 in the game. That’s based on the second half of last year and what I’ve seen in the first three games of this year.

“I think it’s undeniable, the claims.”

Fast forward a few weeks and Sterling has been forced into a massive backflip after watching Smith's influence in Saturday night's 26-16 win against a Newcastle Knights side that was previously undefeated.

The Storm captain wowed Sterling, his fellow commentators and fans with an incredible performance that included two try assists, 42 tackles and a pair of linebreak assists.

“The headline this week is ‘I was wrong’, and in brackets I want ‘premature’,” Sterling said on Wide World of Sports on Tuesday night.

“A couple of weeks ago, I said Cameron Smith may have been eclipsed by Josh Hodgson, and I thought that because I thought that the new tempo in the game might not suit Cameron Smith and, or, the Melbourne Storm.

“In the past two weeks, he’s been superb.

“Josh Hodgson is absolutely nipping at his heels, but Smith answered in kind to show that his mastery is still there.

“Cameron Smith, he basically ran the show (against Newcastle). He throws more one-pass (assists) for tries than anybody else in the game.

“He reads plays so well. The tempo of the game … Melbourne are coming to terms with that, so too Cameron Smith.”

Footage puts Cam Smith tactics under microscope

Often a divisive figure for fans of rival teams, Smith has been called out for trying to influence referees, with NRL journo Paul Crawley bringing up some extraordinary footage on Fox Sports' NRL 360 on Tuesday night.

Crawley played footage of Smith continually pressuring referee Ben Cummins to blow penalties against Newcastle, with the Storm skipper eventually getting the decision on one occasion.

“Look at Cameron in this … I thought we got rid of the pocket referee and then they get the penalty at the end of it,” Crawley said.

However host Ben Ikin dismissed Smith’s actions and said the referee should have been stronger.

“That’s on the referee. That could be viewed as gamesmanship,” Ikin replied.

“If it’s Alfie Langer or Tommy Raudonikis we laugh and tell stories at the pub but as soon as it’s Cameron Smith it becomes evil and rat cunning.”

Crawley said the extraordinary footage goes to the heart of why some fans dislike Smith but denied suggestions it was part of some anti-Queensland agenda from a NSW fan's perspective.

“It’s not a personal attack on Cameron, people say ‘oh you do it Crawls because he comes from Queensland’, my favourite player of all time is Lockyer and he was a Queenslander.

“You know what I loved about Lockyer aside from the fact he was a brilliant footballer who was a joy to watch, it was the spirit he played the game in.”