Rugby League

Why Cameron Smith’s next move isn’t cut and dried

It’s the first day of the rest of Cameron Smith’s life. So, what now? What’s next?

For Immortals-in-waiting it’s fairly simple: TV commentary, coaching or playing golf at an exclusive Gold Coast country club alongside Paul “Fatty” Vautin?

Could Cooper Cronk and Cameron Smith sit alongside each other at Fox Sports?Credit:NRL Photos

Reunited and it feels so, er, good. Yeah, nah, not really.

You don’t last long in the media – especially the bloodsport of the rugby league media – if you chose to only work with the people you like.

But Smith is an odd, elusive character who would struggle working where he isn’t happy.

He’s had his issues with Nine over the years, too. A 60 Minutes story in 2015 about Alex McKinnon, which skewered Smith as a heartless referee whinger as the Knights back-rower was being treated with a serious neck injury, hit a very raw nerve. It required a meeting with Nine execs, including chief executive Hugh Marks, and an apology on The Footy Show to heal the wounds.

Smith would most likely join Nine because it holds the exclusive rights to Origin.

For how much longer that will happen depends on negotiations between Nine and the NRL about extending its current broadcast deal from 2023 onwards.

Outgoing chief executive Marks has made it known he wants to stitch up the rights before he cleans out his office on April 1 – but that seems unlikely.

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has also made it known he found it so tricky to negotiate a reduced broadcast agreement with Marks during the COVID-19 crisis last year that he’d prefer to wait for Nine’s incoming chief executive Mike Sneesby before starting negotiations.

Hughes’ brain trust

Best wishes to Bulldogs great and broadcaster Graeme Hughes, who quietly had a brain tumour removed on Wednesday by leading specialist Charlie Teo.

Hughes, 65, kept the operation quiet after the shocking discovery last week of a tumour on the left-side of his brain.

The devout listeners of his afternoon show Talkin’ Sport on 2SM picked up on his absence last week.

There’s some good news to report.

Graeme Hughes after having a brain tumour removed by surgeon Charlie Teo.

“Charlie believes that it’s 95 per cent benign but I tell you what – it spooks the living daylights out of you,” Hughes said. “You appreciate in life how good these people are. You’re in their hands. What they do completely stuns you.”

The tumour was only detected after Hughes had a CT scan because of some annoying “floaters” in his line of sight. He was immediately referred to Teo.

One of Hughes’ panellists, former cricketer Gavin Robertson, has had his own battle with brain cancer.

“It’s ironic that two of us on the one show have dealt with it,” Hughes said. “Robbo was told his was the worst kind, that he might only have a couple of years, but that’s gone and he’s fit as a fiddle. Mine’s not as bad but it brings you back to reality pretty quick.”

English the Eel deal

Rugby league is followed by all walks of life, from the gutter to the stars and everything in between.

One of them was the late, great singer-songwriter Jon English, who was buried in his Eels jersey after his sad passing in 2016 at the age of 66.

His love of the club is detailed in Jeff Apter’s recently released biography Behind Dark Eyes: The True Story of Jon English.

“Jon was a mad keen Parramatta Eels fan, a life-long supporter, a true believer,” Apter says. “He not only wrote the club song but recorded it with Eric Grothe. Steve Edge tells the story of the night Jon, who was a gun league player in high school, decided to train with the team, overlooking the many years he’d spent living the rock and roll life. ‘We did four laps [of the oval] and he did one,’ said Edge. ‘At the end of one lap he decided to remain a frustrated footballer.’”

The book is on shelves now.

Roosters not crowing

Roosters chairman Nick Politis refuses to bite on Souths owner Russell Crowe’s tongue-in-cheek jabs last week about the signing of Joseph Suaalii and the Bondi club’s so-called “salary cap sombrero”.

“We’re not quite sure what the difference is between our dollars and somebody else’s dollars, because theoretically the figures are the same,” Crowe said in this space last week. “Who knows?”

Then this from the Hollywood actor: “What’s the joke: it’s not a cap, it’s a sombrero, isn’t it?”

Politis was privately bemused by the remarks but has held his tongue.

Others have pointed to the confidentiality agreement signed when Souths released Suaalii. It surprised some that Crowe commented on the matter.

Worth a look

A couple of plugs to finish off a huge week in sport and life.

First, former Bulldogs chairman Ray Dib has been busy in recent times, joining the Buttery Foundation Committee. The Buttery is the highly respected, not-for-profit rehab facility in northern NSW.

Dib has organised a virtual discussion to be held at 4pm on Tuesday, March 16, involving leading sports psychologist Grant Brecht, rugby league’s Phil Gould, former Diamonds and Collingwood AFLW player Sharni Layton, and former Wallaby Warwick Waugh.

You can register at www.buttery.org.au.

The NRL’s official annual, compiled by the legendary numbers man David Middleton, is also out.

Now in its 34th year, it is the perfect chronicle of the 2020 season, the highs and lows and dramas and every single stat conceivable about the great game of rugby league.

You can only order this year’s annual online at www.nrl.com/annual.

The quote

“Let get magget [sic].” – Adam Elliott’s text, as reported in the Herald, to Michael Lichaa before his unfortunate Valentine’s Day liaison with Lichaa’s fiancee. Weirdly, it explains everything.

Thumbs up

Brooklyn Nets star James Harden turned up to the NBA All Stars game wearing a clear plastic poncho, drawing comparisons to Patrick Bateman in the epic thriller American Psycho, and personally I think it is the greatest thing I’ve seen in sport this year.

Thumbs down

I’m not sure what’s worse for the Waratahs: losing to the Western Force, placing enormous pressure on coach Rob Penney to keep his job – or the Force singing Adele’s Someone Like You as their victory song off with the aid of song sheets. I weep for this country.

It’s a big weekend for …

The Central Coast Mariners, who have claimed four of the last five A-League wooden spoons but have shot seven points clear on this season’s ladder. They play Perth Glory on Sunday.

It’s an even bigger weekend for …

Kevin Walters. He’s been trying to get his hands on the coach’s clipboard at the Broncos for years. The Old Boys Club shoved Anthony Seibold out, ushered Walters in. Broncos host Eels on Friday night.

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