Ex-Newcastle forward Alex McKinnon has declared Cameron Smith the greatest rugby league player of all time.
Smith was embroiled in controversy for arguing with the referee just moments after McKinnon was spear-tackled in 2014 resulting in him being paralysed from the waist down.
Not realising how serious McKinnon’s injuries were, Smith protested his team should not have copped a penalty for the tackle.
McKinnon watched the footage for the first time during a controversial news package in 2015 and said: “Is he still debating? Is he f***ing serious? Wouldn’t you just shut up?”
Jordan McLean, the player who made the tackle, reached out to McKinnon personally but Smith reportedly did not at the time.
The Melbourne Storm legend rubbed plenty of people the wrong way throughout his illustrious career, but McKinnon had nothing but praise for legendary hooker.
“I have no doubt and no hesitation in saying Cameron Smith is the greatest player I have seen and the greatest player to have played the game,” McKinnon told the SMH.
“If I bumped into him I’d like to congratulate him on his career.
“There is no bad feelings from me or anyone in my family towards him any more. None at all.
“We have all moved past that.”
Meninga comes clean on Smith
Mal Meninga has finally come clean on just how close the Gold Coast Titans went to luring Cameron Smith out of retirement this summer.
Meninga – who is the Titans head of culture – shut down links between the club and Smith for months, but admitted on Friday he almost had the greatest player of all time.
Smith took more than three months after winning his fifth grand final last October to finally confirm his retirement this week, and confirmed on Wednesday he strongly considered playing a 20th season.
“I spoke to Smithy twice through the whole episode, because it was an episode, it was like a series,” Meninga said on Fox League.
“Drama here, drama there, people commentating on it.
“We talked about … He wanted to play.
“At the back end of last year, he was a champion and he still feels like he can still play. So he hasn’t got that desire (to retire).
“We talk as ex-players, you actually know when you’re done and dusted. Your body falls apart, mentally you don’t want to play anymore, you’re sick of turning up to training and playing. You’re done.”
But Meninga conceded the toughest part in Smith’s decision was playing for a club which wasn’t Melbourne Storm, where the hooker spent his entire career.
“At the end of the day, he didn’t want to play against Melbourne,” Meninga said.
“He is Melbourne. He’s been Melbourne all his career, he showed great loyalty to Melbourne and I feel he’s made the right decision in my mind.
“As an ex-old fella, I feel like he’s made the right decision for the right reasons and it’s all about not playing for Melbourne.”
Smith relocated his family to the Gold Coast at the end of last year and Meninga said the 37-year-old “can come over whenever he likes”.